Nutritional Care for
Children with Disabilities
Good nutrition is essential during childhood, as it is a time of rapid growth, development and activity. This is also a vital time for healthy tooth development and prevention of decay. General eating habits and patterns are formed in the first few years of life. Poor nutrition during these years is
associated with an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease. Childcare providers, therefore, have a key role in introducing children to a wide varieties of food and establishing a pattern of regular meals and healthy snacks.
Prajaahita Foundation organized a one day webinar as part of the Saukhyam project for the parents and caretakers of children with disabilities regarding “How to make nutritious meals for children with disabilities''. Dt. Zammiloony Iqbal (clinical nutritionist & dietician) conducted this webinar.
She discussed types of disabilities and disease conditions which lead to impairment and explained the difference between disorder and disease; disorder means disruption of the usual bodily functions and disease is the
concepts of illness.
Congenital disorders are conditions that are present from birth or may be inherited or caused by environmental factors. Some of the disorders are intellectual disability, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and fragile x syndrome. Childhood disability means their inability to perform certain functions. The activities which other children do usually can’t be done by children with disabilities. They may not have the same IQ level that the other children generally possess, but they can be more efficient in their own ways. Nutrition is a process by which one receives the energy from the food they consume and use it for growth, metabolism and repair. Providing a proper nutritious diet to children with disabilities is very important.
There is a high chance for nutrient deficiency for ‘Children With Disability’. Nutrients are of two types: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are more complex which include: energy, carbohydrate, protein and fat. Micro nutrients, include: vitamins, Minerals, calcium, iron etc.
One gains macronutrients from the daily diet. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals necessary for the body in very small amounts. However, impact on a body is critical, and deficiency in any of them can cause severe and even life-threatening conditions. Deficiency comes to us in many ways, but one do not pay attention to the micronutrients'
Children with disabilities tend to eat less nutritious food. This means that they have a limited choice and eat only certain food. Nutrition levels can be very low, and they are more likely to have malnutrition and underweight. Underweight is a condition in which the body does not have the required scale of height and weight. It is said that children with disabilities need more nutrition to avoid such a situation. At the early stage of development, children need the adequate nutrition intake at a time when they are developing bone, teeth, muscle and blood.
For example, some do not like Papaya when it is raw and cut or sliced into pieces. In that case changing the form- as converting it into juice or milkshake will attract the children and they consume without hesitation. It is important to pay close attention to what is on a plate, what to include and to eat at the proper time. Children with disabilities are more likely to have anorexia for a longer period of time. So, the amount of food they eat is more likely to decrease. Similarly, they consume only a limited amount of food. They may be allergic to certain as well as intolerant to
some; that is, vomiting or intolerance leads to diarrhea, but this is only with certain food and not with all. Otherwise, when they include a lot of fast food in their diet or when they include chocolates and candies with sugar content, it will result in malnutrition.