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SNN Presents: Nutrition and Children with Special Needs

12 June 2021, 9:30am - 11am, Webinar

Nutrition for developing children is a topic of keen interest for many parents and caregivers. When it comes to children with an underlying disorder or medical condition, a healthy approach to nutrition can be quite challenging. On 12 June, 30 parents and caregivers were connected online with dietician Denise Fair from her home in Vancouver for our third webinar of the year, SNN Presents: Nutrition and Children with Special Needs.

In a comprehensive presentation, Denise explained the basic nutritional needs of children as they grow and develop, why these needs may change for children with special needs, what to consider for an individualized diet, including energy requirements, activity level, mechanical, physical and behavioural issues, and how to assess a developing child's nutritional needs.

In addition to discussing concerns around a child being underweight or overweight, Denise also covered the kinds of behavioural issues that many parents struggle with and can make a healthy diet seemingly difficult to achieve. These included transitioning to an age-appropriate diet, picky eating, increased sensory sensitivity, and short attention span, among others. Denise also gave some practical tips on how to overcome these challenges to help your child enjoy an improved diet and achieve a healthy weight. One tool to consider when trying to change a picky eater’s preferences or aversions to certain foods (usually vegetables!) is ‘food chaining’ whereby a gradual change is introduced to move away from a preferred food towards other similarly shaped or textured foods to achieve a transition and introduce more variety. Denise mentioned it can take up to 8 times for a child to try a new food before they accept it. This may require some perseverance!

Some questions raised by participants ahead of the event were addressed in detail during the presentation, meaning Denise was able to focus the discussion on what attendees were interested in. This included the topic of food allergies and intolerance, and how to identify and manage them. Denise shared some insights about gastrointestinal issues and introduced the role and impact of the gut microbiome on overall health, for those interested to explore the concept further. In the last part of the presentation Denise explored various types of dietary interventions, including gluten-free and casein-free diets, the Ketogenic Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the Nemechek Protocol, and a vegetarian diet, among others. She also introduced the role of dietary supplements and the importance of specific nutrients.

During the Q&A session, participants had an opportunity to ask questions and take away more practical tips, as the discussion touched on how to detect malabsorption in a potentially underweight child, the recommended approach when children ask for snacks after skipping a meal, how to improve sleep quality, dietary options for helping with reflux and constipation, and issues related to taking too many supplements. The discussion covered a range of diverse issues, including recommendations for caregivers of children fed via G-tube, as well as tips on educating teens who want to switch to a vegetarian diet.

The SNNHK Committee expresses our gratitude to Denise for her comprehensive presentation and generous sharing of knowledge with our parents and carers located in Hong Kong. The Committee is continuing to plan and organize events that are relevant for our members for the next school year. Stay tuned for our next event in September!

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