March 2012 | News You Can Use

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Food for Thought ~ Tools for Healthy Living


Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.

~~ Walt Kelly,  American Cartoonist


There has been a lot of attention lately on the topic of school meals – what counts as ‘healthy food,’ creating community gardens, and ensuring that students are getting proper nutrition to be ready to learn. For some students (and some adults), food can be a complicated issue.

This month’s newsletter highlights resources on a wide range of topics that involve “health”—nutrition, food allergies, asthma, diabetes, eating disorders, children with special health care needs, exercise (including adapted physical activity for children with physical limitations), and supporting children’s social, mental, and emotional health.

Of course, we also include some ‘tasty treats’ for the mind as well as the body. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please feel free to contact us at

Our best to you,

Your friends
at the National Dissemination Center
for Children with Disabilities



New! Improving the reading comprehension of students with LD.
We’ve summarized the major points of Berkeley, Scruggs, & Mastropieri meta-analysis of research conducted between 1995 and 2006. This meta-analysis synthesizes findings of 40 studies for improving the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities.

On our special theme this month, here are three resources you may find useful:

Resources within the medical and healthcare community.
Are you looking for information on a health condition? For a doctor or services? Other “health” connections? Try this resource page.

Mental health resources.
There are many, many organizations that deal with mental health. This page will help you find the one or ones that offer the type of assistance, intervention, or information you’re seeking.

La Salud.
And for the Spanish-speaking community, a resource page on health in Spanish.

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Create and support meaningful dialogue. 

Dialogue is at the heart of community and community building. Interested in having a constructive dialogue with others in your community, agency, school, or region?

The IDEA Partnership recommends: Start by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders from different facets of your community (agency, school, or region…). Use dialogue to build a better understanding of the issues that each stakeholder group faces and what, collectively, the community faces. With continued dialogue, the conversation evolves from an “I” perspective to a “we” perspective. When that happens, the community moves to problem solving and action.

The Partnership’s Dialogue Guides can help. They raise questions that encourage and support community stakeholders in conversations about (pick your topic): autism, assistive technology, instruction, mental health, RTI, universal design for learning, and more.

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It’s national nutrition month! What does it mean to “eat right?”March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is focused on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Get a plan in place to manage allergies or asthma.
Food allergies and asthma can be challenging to manage, especially when your child is at school. You may find these resources helpful for putting together a plan for managing these conditions both at school and at home.

What is an allergic reaction to food?

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Visit here and find a comprehensive guide to conditions and treatments, written and reviewed by the world’s leading authorities in allergy, asthma, immune deficiencies, and other immunologic disorders. Info in Spanish, too!

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
AAFA has a national network of 9 regional chapters that provide a variety of services, educational programs, and support. It also has an information-rich website that includes info in Spanish. 

Life-threatening food allergies in schools and child care settings.
Here’s a practical guide to help parents work with care providers, staff, and children regarding life-threatening food allergies. Includes sample letters to school officials and safe lunch ideas.

Just for kids.
Find games, puzzles, videos, and more to help you learn about managing your allergies and asthma.

Pica. What you need to know. 
Pica is the urge to eat non-foods such as sand, clay, ice, or chalk. The Friendship Circle Blog summarizes key information on pica and how it may affect you and your child.

Eating disorders. 
Of the almost 24 million Americans who suffer from an eating disorder, 95% are between 12 and 25 years old. Shocking, isn’t it? Adults can play key roles in addressing eating issues and disorders among children, primarily adolescence. The Rise of Eating Issues and Disorders offers tips on how to prevent the development of these problems.

Where to turn for help with eating disorders? 
Here are some resources that families may be find helpful.

National Eating Disorders Association
Lots of info here! Videos, too, Spanish resources, and a Parent Toolkit.

Something Fishy: Website on eating disorders.
Learn more about anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating. Info in English and in Spanish. 

Are you at risk for diabetes? Find out March 27th.
March 27th is the American Diabetes Association’s Alert Day, a one-day “wake-up call” asking the American public to take a diabetes risk test. Answer a few simple questions to find out if you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

And while we’re talking about diabetes… 
Approximately 215,000 children under the age of 20 have diabetes. The disorder falls under the IDEA category of “other health impairment” (OHI). Find out more with NICHCY’s fact sheets on OHI and on diabetes, which will connect you with the movers and shakers out there and tons of on-target information.

About other health impairment.

About diabetes. 

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Eating well in early childhood. 
Developing good eating habits is important to do in the early years, although introducing new foods to a toddler is not always as easy as it sounds. Helping Preschoolers Develop Healthy Eating Habits offers some great tips and resources on how to get started early with developing good eating habits.   

Nutrition tips and tools for raising healthy little ones.
Optimal nutrition in early childhood not only supports children’s growth and development, it can also establish healthy eating habits that extend into later childhood and beyond.

Nutrition for children with special health care needs.
This handbook provides practical information regarding common nutrition and feeding problems of infants and young children with special health care needs resulting from a disability or other cause.

Video | Ounce of prevention encourages healthy eating habits.

Training activity: Participation-based IFSP outcomes and IEP goals.
This training activity is designed to support participants’ understanding of the criteria needed to develop and write high-quality, participation-based IFSP outcomes and IEP goals.

Play with puzzles and develop a math wiz.
A new study by University of Chicago researchers indicates that puzzle play may help young children to develop better spatial skills.

Tips to help your late-talker develop speech and language skills.

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Start your day right during national breakfast week. 
March 5-9 is National Breakfast Week, the culmination of “School Breakfast – Go for the Gold” campaign running from January to March 2012. The campaign highlights how eating a healthy balanced breakfast at school helps students shine. And it teaches students the importance of eating healthy and being active.

What’s on your plate? You get to choose! 
If you’re looking for a treasure trove of resources on food, sample menus and recipes, online tools that children (and adults) can use to create and track a personalized eating and exercising plan, and much more… this site is definitely a great place to come. 

What responsibilities does the school have when children have special dietary needs?
Here are three resources that will tell you:

Accommodating children with special dietary needs in the school nutrition programs.
For school food service managers and parent(s), this guidance describes some of the factors that must be considered in the early phases of planning when a child with special dietary needs comes to school. Information is also presented on how to handle situations that may arise and offers advice about such issues as funding and liability.

Meeting children’s special food and nutrition needs in child nutrition programs.
This online training module is designed to help school nutrition staff understand and apply the laws and regulations that require accommodations for children with special food and nutrition needs; and to familiarize staff with special needs frequently seen in schools.

Meal substitutions for medical or dietary reasons.

Children being punished for being sick? That does not sound right.
Laws that require children to attend school for a certain number of days per year are designed to deter truancy. But, as When Schools Punish Sick Children Who Miss School: A Game Plan points out, children with chronic illness or injury are not truant!

Teachers! Use your lessons to develop healthy students.
Kids Health in the Classroom provides free health-related lesson plans and resources for all grade levels.

When a student has an eating disorder.
Learn the signs, find do’s and don’ts, connect with educator guidelines, incorporate diversity in your prevention efforts, and download the Educator Toolkit. All from the National Eating Disorders Association.

Helping the student with diabetes succeed: A guide for school personnel.
This comprehensive resource guide helps students with diabetes, their health care team, school staff, and parents work together to provide optimal diabetes management in the school setting.

How about a visit to the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability?
Here’s the place to come to find a wide range of physical activities and adaptations for people with disabilities. As NCPAD says, “Being physically active is good for every body.”

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Visit the Food and Nutrition Service.
FNS administers the nutrition assistance programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission is to provide children and needy families better access to food and a more healthful diet through its food assistance programs and comprehensive nutrition education efforts. Find the latest rule on nutrition standards in school meals, access the Healthy Access Locator, apply for grants, and connect with the latest data and statistics. 

National portrait of children with special health care needs.
Recent data show that 14-19% of children in the United States have a special health care need, representing over 1 in 5 households with children. The chartbook Children with Special Health Care Needs in Context: A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007 provides a unique view of CSHCN in the context of where they live, play, and go to school. It also allows comparisons to children without special health care needs.

Homeless and hungry children in America.
This report documents the numbers of homeless children in every state, their well-being, the risk for child homelessness, and state-level planning and policy activities.

Need to improve graduation rates? Georgia figured out how.
Georgia increased its graduation rate by 37% with GraduateFIRST, a statewide initiative that uses a data-driven intervention framework developed by the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD).

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Publication of this eNewsletter is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H326N080003 between FHI 360 and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.


Comments on our newsletter? Too long? Too short? Off-target? Right on? Suggestions for future topics? Please feel free to contact us at We’re here to help you help children with disabilities.

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to