Title: Needs Assessment Results for Nutrition and Physical Activity Integration into Special Education
Chelsey L. Slattery, MS
Organization: University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Acknowledgements: The author would like to acknowledge those who contributed their time to contribute to the data collection efforts of this study.
Author Note: This study has not been published previously, and it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. The study referenced in the article has been approved as an exempt study by the Institutional Review Board at the University of California, Davis. In order to participate in this study, participants were required to be at least 18 years of age and have experience teaching the special education population. The manuscript has been reviewed and approved by all authors, as well as any other responsible authorities. There are not any known potential conflicts of interest associated with this study.
Needs Assessment Results for Nutrition and Physical Activity Integration into Special Education Abstract
Background Individuals with disabilities tend to have a higher prevalence of overweight compared to their non-disabled peers. Thus, emphasizing the need for effective interventions to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Method An online survey tool was sent to special education teachers across 5 school districts to identify the need for and barriers to integrating nutrition and physical activity resources into their classrooms.
Results Of the teachers that were surveyed, 90% reported that their students receive too little nutrition education. The top barriers that were identified as obstacles for more fully integrating nutrition into their classrooms included; time within the school day, lack of resources/materials, and funding.
Conclusions Special education teachers and their students need access to resources that provide opportunities for nutrition and health-related interventions. Research is needed to identify effective interventions aimed at reducing the number of overweight and individuals with disabilities.
Keywords: nutrition, obesity, disabilities
Needs Assessment for Nutrition and Physical Activity Integration into Special Education
Growing evidence suggests that obesity rates are significantly higher among individuals with disabling conditions (Gibson, Temple, Anholt, & Gaul, 2011). There is a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in adult and child populations with mental health disorders, learning disabilities, and muscular- skeletal conditions (Ells et al., 2006). Impairment of the muscular-skeletal system is the number one leading cause of disability (Piechota, Malkiewicz, & Karwat, 2005). Individuals with muscular-skeletal conditions are often sedentary due to the amount of pain that can be associated with the condition. Sedentary behaviors are often associated with increased overweight and obesity, which can exacerbate symptoms associated with muscular-skeletal conditions, such as chronic back pain. This contributes to the vicious cycle where sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity and obesity exacerbates disability (Rey-Lopez, Vicente-Rodriguez, Biosca, & Moreno, 2008). Thus, emphasizing the need for effective interventions to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight starting at a young age.
There is a paucity of resources available to those that teach children and adolescents with physical and cognitive disabilities. A range of interventions will be necessary to overcome the many barriers that children and adolescents with disabilities experience in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, especially since they are at and increased risk for obesity and nutrition-related health concerns (Gibson, Temple, Anholt, & Gaul, 2011). The current study aimed to identify whether or not there is a perceived need for integrating nutrition and physical activity education and resources into special education classrooms. Methods