Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Autism and Obesity

Children with autism have many challenges associated with their disabilities, including a higher risk of obesity.  The obesity prevalence in these individuals is important for parents, caretakers, and teachers to understand in order to better care for these children and meet their health needs.  Additionally, research on how to reduce this occurrence is desperately needed in order to tackle this issue and reduce occurrence.  Obesity is not limited to children with developmental disabilities, however, like other physical and educational matters, it may need to be addressed in a different way for those on the autism spectrum. 

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary obesity is, “a condition that is characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body and that in an adult is typically indicated by a body mass index of 30 or greater” (  There are multiple causes for obesity, but an unhealthy amount of fat in the body is always the problem.  No one is immune to obesity, however, some groups are prone to having a higher incidence.  Adolescents with developmental disabilities are 1.5 more likely to have obesity than those without and those with autism are even higher than that according to the CDC and Autism Speaks (  The exact percentages of adolescents with obesity are 13.1% in those without any developmental disability and 20.4 in those with a developmental disability, and more specifically, 31.8% in those with autism.  This is a staggering increase in incidence.

 The causes of obesity are numerous, but Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat (2014) reduced the primary explanations down to 4 principal issues.  These problems include adolescents with autism partaking in less physical activity than peers, consuming poor nutrition and bad dietary habits, medication use and side effects, and metabolic abnormalities (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Through their research, lowered physical activity was attributed to adolescents with autism being less likely to engage in prolonged physical activity and that they could not grasp the need for it, would not engage in sports with teams due to lack of communication skills, and had a hard time with physical activity due to poor motor skills or coordination (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Often times, individuals with autism struggle with many physical tasks using coordination, so exercise seems to be no different.  Even more upsetting are the potential causes for poor nutrition among these individuals with autism.  Reasons such as problems with sensory modulation and gastrointestinal pain often produce poor eating habits and binge eating that higher functioning adolescents with autism use as a coping mechanism for feelings of social isolation and depression (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  The last two reasons for obesity would be accurate for anyone taking medications that slow the metabolism or increase appetite as well as abnormalities in the metabolic system. 

There is a lack of empirical research showing how to address the issue of obesity effectively in individuals with autism.  As with most individuals struggling with obesity, exercise and education on nutrition and good habits is important.  However, when working with individuals on the spectrum some behavioral interventions may be needed when addressing the issue (Srinivasan, Pescatello, and Bhat, 2014).  Behavioral intervention can address both eating and exercise habits as well as helping to train parents to be able to handle problem behaviors without giving in to poor eating choices. 

The effects of obesity on these individuals are numerous, “including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, depression, fatigue, liver or gallbladder problems, low self-esteem, preoccupation with weight, early maturation and pressure sores” (Rimmer, Yamaki, Lowry, Wang, & Vogel, 2010, p.787). This is the main reason that obesity must be addressed by the child’s caregiver, parent or guardian in order to try to maintain the best health possible. 

As stated by Phillips, et al. (2014), “Obesity poses significant chronic health risks within an already vulnerable population of adolescents with DDs” (p.1973).  The only logical next step in this unfortunate epidemic is to educate parents, teachers, and doctors of the increase in obesity in these individuals and to work with physicians to try and reduce obesity.  Also, more research is needed in order to develop a behavioral or physical education program to decrease fat and increase overall health in adolescents with autism. 

If you have a child with autism that is suffering from obesity:

·         Talk with your child’s pediatrician to see if the medication they are taking may be effecting their weight and ask if there are any alternatives

·         Consult with a Speech therapist or Occupational therapist for sensory issues in order to help the child manage those problems and learn to eat more foods or exercise

·         As always, consult with an Board Certified Behavior Analyst for an evaluation and behavioral intervention plan for eating, exercising and help for parents with problems behaviors



CDC Study Flags High Rate of Obesity among Teens with Autism. Retrieved February 11, 2016,

Obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.merriam-

Phillips, K., Schieve, L., Visser, S., Boulet, S., Sharma, A., Kogan, M., …..Yeargin-allsopp, M.

(2014). Prevalence and impact of unhealthy weight in a national sample of US adolescents with autism and other learning and behavioral disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18(8), 1964-75. doi:

Rimmer, J., Yamaki, K., Lowry, B., Wang, E., & Vogel, L. (2010). Obesity and obesity-

related secondary conditions in adolescents with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54(9), 787-794. doi:10.1111/j.1365-


Srinivasan, S., Pescatello, L., & Bhat, A. (2014). Current perspectives on physical activity and

exercise recommendations for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Physical Therapy, 94(6), 875-89. Retrieved from

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Taylor Swift donated $10,000 towards Jacobs service dog!

I’m having a hard time putting to words just how thankful, humbled, and excited we are about the recent events surrounding our family. If you haven't seen the girls' video yet and Taylor Swift's donation, you can view it here:
If there is one thing that we understand, it’s that we really didn’t deserve this gift. 
Yes, these compassionate and creative girls did an amazing job on their incredible video.  They worked hard and selflessly to try and raise money for Jacob’s service dog.  But, I am sure Taylor Swift sees hundreds, if not thousands, of renditions of her songs all the time. 

Although we do feel like Jordan and Makaylee are some of the cutest 12 year olds in the world, we also know that God has been caring for Jacob since he was just a little guy.  We have diligently prayed as a family for Jacob’s provision for years and God has always provided in His time and in His way for our family.  This time God worked through none other than TAYLOR SWIFT to take care of sweet Jakey-poo and has left us once again in complete and utter awe and wonder.

How can we even thank someone like Taylor, the world’s most famous, beautiful, amazing pop singer, for making such a huge donation to complete strangers?  Nothing that I say could do her gift justice.  We are amazed and deeply grateful.

We also sit in reverence of our God, who is sovereign over all things.  It is no coincidence that Taylor Swift or her mom saw Jordan and Makaylee’s video.  God orchestrated this in order to provide Jacob just what he needed.  It makes me wish that Jacob could understand how blessed he is that the creator of the universe is working so beautifully in his life.  I hope that one day we will be able to explain to him the miracles that God has done in his life.  God is so good.  God cares about each one of us and wants a relationship with every single person.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But until I can express to Jacob these things, all I can do is give all the glory to God.  My words cannot even express how my heart is feeling.  We have seen such an outpouring of love from friends and family and now from this huge world famous singer…Thank you. We don’t deserve it, but we are so grateful and feel so blessed by this donation. 

I can’t wait for Jacob to meet his new dog.  I can’t wait to see him walking all on his own, safely.  I can’t wait to see the day that Jacob realizes that the dog is his friend, and he connects with him.  I can’t wait to see their bond and how it grows Jacob.  I am such a happy and appreciative mommy. 

Thank you, Jordan and Makaylee for spending your free time giving to someone else.  Thank you friends and family, for your donations.  Thank you, Taylor Swift, for donating $10,000 to complete strangers! Thank you, Lord, for your perfect and astonishing provision.

Isaiah 46:8-11

“Remember this and stand firm,
    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
    remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.