Slim Chance: A Weight Control Program for the Learning Disabled
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Because self-image and self-esteem are so important to a learning disabled child's sense of well being, diet and eating habits are equally important. An overweight child is likely to be ridiculed and rejected by his peers solely for his appearance, and if the child is also learning disabled, he carries a double burden. Generally, schools do not include weight control programs in the curriculum for either regular or handicapped children; however, we have designed a school weight control program for learning disabled students based on techniques which have been successful with the retarded (Rotatori, Parrish, and Freagon 1979; Fox and Switzky 1980; Rotatori and Switsky 1979; Rotatori and Fox 1980; Rotatori, Mauser, Fox, and Switzky 1981) and the behaviorally disturbed (Rotatori, Fox, and Wicks 1980).
Our school-based diet program is designed to help students lose weight and to improve their health, appearance, fitness, and self-esteem. Program participants, led by a teacher, nurse, social worker, or dietician, meet together regularly during school hours. Each participant must have had a physical examination within the previous six months and must receive approval of his physician before joining the program. In contrast to most diet programs, which concentrate on weight loss rather than maintenance of the desired weight, our approach stresses maintenance through the development of self-control skills (Stuart and Davis 1972). We teach children to modify their eating behavior by learning alternative ways of interacting with their environment.