Nutrition Services for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs

Volume 115, Issue 4 Pages 593-608 (April 2015)


It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that nutrition services provided by registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs), who work under RDN supervision, are essential components of comprehensive care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN). Nutrition services should be provided throughout life in a manner that is interdisciplinary, family-centered, community based, and culturally competent. Individuals with IDD and CYSHCN have many risk factors requiring nutrition interventions, including growth alterations (eg, failure to thrive, obesity, or growth retardation), metabolic disorders, poor feeding skills, drug-nutrient interactions, and sometimes partial or total dependence on enteral or parenteral nutrition. Furthermore, these individuals are also more likely to develop comorbid conditions, such as obesity or endocrine disorders that require nutrition interventions. Poor nutrition-related health habits, limited access to services, and long-term use of multiple medications are considered health risk factors. Timely and cost-effective nutrition interventions can promote health maintenance and reduce risk and cost of comorbidities and complications. Public policy for individuals with IDD and CYSHCN has evolved, resulting in a transition from institutional facilities and programs to community and independent living. The expansion of public access to technology and health information on the Internet challenges RDNs and NDTRs to provide accurate scientific information to this rapidly growing and evolving population. RDNs and NDTRs with expertise in this area are best prepared to provide appropriate nutrition information to promote wellness and improve quality of life.