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If Your Autistic Child Has a Weight Problem, He's Not Alone

Two of my autistic boys are overweight, and according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they're not alone. Children with developmental disabilities were already known to have a higher risk of obesity, but new research shows kids on the autism spectrum have double the risk.

The CDC and the government's Health Resources and Services Administration got the figures from parent-reported data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2008 and 2010 on 9,600 kids ages 12 to 17. Here is what the study found:

  • Out of the total, 1,400 of the parents reported their children were autistic, had ADHD, an intellectual disability, a learning disability or some type of developmental disability.
  • The children who have developmental disabilities were 50 percent more likely to be obese.
  • When researchers looked specifically at kids with autism, they discovered their risk was more than double.
  • Among the kids with an intellectual disability, 20 percent were obese.
  • Among the autistic children, roughly 32 percent were "severely overweight."
  • Among children in the same age group with no developmental disabilities, 13 percent were obese.
  • Kids with developmental disabilities were also more likely than their "normally developing peers" to be underweight. But "the odds of being underweight decreased when researchers factored in whether the individuals weighed little at birth."

The CDC said a big concern is the added medical and social issues obesity can bring to an already vulnerable autistic child, such as asthma, eczema and migraine headaches. Some parents find a brief period of exercise each day seems to help their child stay at a healthy weight, but once a child is a preteen or teen, it can be very difficult to control his or her exercise and eating. My 12-year-old would eat constantly if he had the choice! Be sure you talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to ensure that your child gets the right foods and to help you keep an eye on his or her weight.