Gaining Weight

Today, I found a link to the article which addresses one of the issue we are currently dealing with. “Prevalence and Impact of Unhealthy Weight in a National Sample of US Adolescents with Autism and Other Learning and Behavioral Disabilities”
It concerns me greatly. Since September, Robert gained 20 pounds. In the summer, medium size shirts were too big for him, now large are too small. The pants are too tight, and do not go around his waist, because there is a big belly where the waist should be. So the pants are sliding lower and lower. Huge problem.
Even worse, Robert has a huge appetite and doesn’t seem ever to be full. Although he leads rather active life style, he still gains more calories than sheds.
According to the article, youngsters with disability are heavier than their peers without such diagnosis, but among them still those with autism lead in numbers of pounds in their bodies.
I wonder. I was informed that many children with autism take medications that are connected to the weight increases. Robert, however, never took such drugs.
But he went through years of discrete trails that relied heavily, too heavily on constant food reinforcers. So he almost constantly had something in his mouth. When he was still very young, I was concerned about that mostly because of his teeth. When he went to collaborative program, that constant feeding stopped with no negative consequences to the behavior. Then it returned with a vengeance, when Robert started his transition classroom.
In the first three months there he gained 15 pounds! He gained those pounds despite going with his classmates twice a week to the town’s gym.
How could this happen? I believe that it was because this program started just as a place to wait until the children mature out of school system with disregard for individual needs. The people who created it wanted to pretend to do something but didn’t want to spend one penny on a new program. In the first few months there was more eating than teaching in this classroom. Going to the gym was also cheaper than hiring a physical ed teacher, who would provide correct instruction. Since the classroom was separated from high school those students didn’t benefit from instruction provided by certified health teacher.
Luckily, Robert loose those 15 pounds over the summer in Handi Kids (currently Bridge Center.)
Over the years, I talked to the teachers and administrators about that issue. I didn’t, however, talk about that this school year. I thought I didn’t have to. They should already be alerted!
Only during the last month of Robert’s stay at this transition program, I learned that almost every day, he was given a bag of chips as a reward for a good behavior or as a way to calm him. I really don’t know the rationale behind it. I might suspect that it was the advise from BCBA (as that was the case in one of previous years.) I am not sure. I know that despite swimming, skiing, horse riding, and hiking whenever weather permited, Robert gained 20 pounds and what is worse developed a habit of constant eating.
Of course, I also played a role. When he was a toddler and preschooler, he was diagnosed with so-called “failure to thrive” a result of serious food allergies to almost everything – grains, milk, eggs, nuts, fish. Because of that providing food and more food was never disputed.
I stopped in 2010 when I noticed how much he gained in those three months.
I also wonder if Robert’s attachment to food is not somehow related to the pica he had when he was younger. And if pica was not related to constantly provided food reinforcers. It is possible that he was used to having something in his mouth all the time. Just possible…
I have so many questions. But the most important of them is, “What to do about that NOW?”

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