Eating Disorder Awareness
February is “Eating Disorder Awareness Month” and a good time for teachers of special needs teens to provide their students with the information they need to make healthy eating choices and be aware when troubled eating patterns arise. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with some of the highest overall mortality rates of any mental illness. And, teens are especially susceptible. But, with early intervention, help can be found.
Get the Facts on Eating Disorders
According to the Academy for Eating Disorders:
Eating disorders (ED) are NOT choices, passing fads or phases.
Anorexia nervosa (starving), bulimia nervosa (bingeing and purging), and EDNOS (ED not otherwise specified) are the three categories of eating disorders.
While more common in women, men also suffer from eating disorders.
While young white women are most affected, eating disorders affect people regardless of gender, race, SES, or geography.
Athletes in certain sports are especially at risk.
Some common eating disorders have been noted since the 19th century.
Both genetic and environmental factors lead to eating disorders.
Body dissatisfaction has been shown in White, African-American, Hispanic and Asian girls which can lead to eating disorders.
Take the Test
Several sites provide free tests for students to take to determine if they are at risk for an eating disorder. If you suspect that your student might be at risk, this test might provide some information for self-awareness, or a talking-point to help your student seek help. This is especially important because eating disorders are best treated—or even cured—if found early, before physical damage can be done to the body and negative psychological patterns can be entrenched.
Testing tools can be found here by the National Eating Disorder Association.
Then Provide Alternatives
Then help students understand what healthy eating looks like. Nutrition is a workbook from Daily Living Skills which gives students information on creating a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. MyPlate information; facts on vitamins, minerals and calories; exercise and fitness; and simple, healthful meal preparation are all skills that will help students take control of their weight and health and help avoid the pitfalls of eating disorders.
For More Information
Like all books in the Daily Living Skills series, Nutrition is written on a 3rd/4th grade reading level with airy pages and bullet point information which, nevertheless, honors teens’ maturity and sensibilities while meeting SCANs topics, Indicator 13 requirements and federal mandates for transition services. To download the free Doing Laundry book, or find out more about the series, go here.