Children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs benefit from health care and health programs for the same reasons everyone does – to stay well, active, and a part of the community – and there is a lot that parents can do to help maintain and improve their child’s health. This page offers information that parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs can use to help the whole family live a healthier lifestyle.
Prevention and Health Care
Children with disabilities and special health care needs can benefit from a holistic approach to health care, one that meets their needs as a whole person, not just as a person with a disability or special health care need. That means having the tools and information to make healthy choices and the knowledge to prevent illness.
- The Affordable Care Act of 2010, a federal law that reforms health care, requires that many preventive services be provided at no cost. These benefits are being implemented gradually, so ask your health plan for more information. Read more about these services at HealthCare.gov
- In addition to general prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website includes healthy living information for people with many conditions.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website includes a variety of articles and resources on prevention, such as:
- The latest immunization schedules for children and youth
- Material on yearly check-up visits and managing your child’s health care
- Developmental information for all ages and stages of childhood
Prevention and Active Living
The Affordable Care Act also emphasizes the community’s role in promoting active living as a way to prevent disease. Many communities in Minnesota are working on wellness and recreation policies and on creating opportunities for families and children with and without disabilities. These projects make it easier for families to include physical activity in daily routines such as walking or biking for transportation or recreation, playing in the park, working in the yard, or using recreation facilities.
- Let's Move - First Lady Michelle Obama is leading a national effort to increase children’s physical activity, called Let’s Move.
- We Can! - The We Can! Program from the National Institutes of Health offers free tools and fun activities for families.
- Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives - Minnesota has several Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives, including active living.
- Project Adventure - Ideas about ensuring that community recreation opportunities are inclusive of children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs.
- Healthy Habits: Student Guide to Nutrition and Fitness Resources – A new guide for students of all ages and their families offering tips on nutrition, fitness and wellness.
Prevention and Related Topics
Many chronic conditions and special health care needs can be managed so that they have minimal impact on a child’s daily living. In some cases, it can help to know that higher risks for health problems related to a disability or chronic condition can be managed.
- Reducing Obesity – A report from the Centers for Disease Control: Achieving Healthy Weight by Reducing Obesity and Improving Well-being for People with Disabilities across the Life Course
Social inclusion can be defined as being involved in activities, developing and maintaining relationships, and having a sense of belonging. Many children with disabilities and special health care needs learn, work, and live in inclusive settings, but too often they have little social connection to, and few friendships with, those around them. Social inclusion is an important component of social/emotional health, life choices, and community participation.
- Community Integration – Impact newsletter from University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration
- A Community For All Children - A Guide to Inclusion for Out-of-School Time includes good suggestions for school-age children and their families.
Children and youth with certain disabilities or special health care needs may require specialized dental care, or may be at higher risk for dental problems.
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research - Developmental Disabilities and Oral Health
- International Association for Disability and Oral Health
- Family Voices - Oral Health for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs
Champions for Children with Disabilities