Like millions of other people, Special Olympics athletes often struggle with their weight. In fact, children with disabilities are 38% more likely to be obese than children without disabilities, and screenings conducted by the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program have found that more than 50% of its athletes in the United States are either overweight or obese.
A new report, “Finding Balance: Obesity and Children with Special Needs,” published by Ability Path in coordination with Special Olympics, examines this issue and provides advice and tools for caregivers and policy-makers to confront the problem on all levels – from federal policies to every day changes that can be made in the home.
“This is not just about our bodies. It’s about our values,” said Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman and CEO. “We have an epidemic of low expectations and social isolation and the resulting health and emotional problems that ensue.”
Special Olympics is included in the report as an effective intervention for losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The movement has many success stories. Janelle
Evrard, an athlete from Massachusetts, lost 115 pounds by dieting, exercising, and participating in Special Olympics. Sara Abbott, an athlete from Minnesota, has Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder that is associated with intellectual disability, insatiable appetite, low metabolism, and obesity. Through Special Olympics, she lost 150
Yet, for every success story, there are thousands of Special Olympics athletes who are still fighting the battle with obesity. Everyone has a part to play to ensure that they win it.
“As a society, we have to do a much better job of building community for people who have some challenges but still have the capacity to be healthy,” Shriver said.