September 11, 2013

The freshman 20?

When I went to college I fell prey to the freshman 20..or maybe 25. In those olden days the legal drinking age was 18 and for a young lady with a catholic school upbringing my freshman year was all about beer. I loved college!

For Alex, a young lady with down syndrome, the freshman 20...or 25 has been around since puberty. There are a number or reasons for this, my least favorite was the reward system used at school. In every IEP meeting since 7th grade I insisted candy and junk food be removed as a "prize" for Alex. I also know that in her middle school years this was not the case. In the first few years after we relocated to Colorado Alex's weight gain increased to the freshman 30 and food become a daily battle with us.

I have written many a post on weight. Try herehere and here for a few of my choice frustrations.

Over the years we have stopped buying soda and as much junk food as we can. We initiated a chart system so Alex can have a visual reminder of all the food she consumes. Alex writes down everything she eats and the associated calorie count on a meal to meal basis.

We added a few tricks, such as lean cuisine and other food items with an easily identified calorie count. Foods and vegetables were zero calories and she was allowed to eat as much as she wanted. Alex also upped her exercise level and being selected to represent the USA in the World Winter Special Olympic Games was a big motivator. In nine months she lost over 20 pounds.

Alex and her cousin Kelsey in South Korea
One might think my biggest fear about sending Alex six states away for college had to do with her safety, or failing at her studies. No, my biggest fear for Alex is the freshman 20. Sure, I get it - she is in a new place and food is a comfort for her, but I also know that healthy eating and choices is an important part of the TAP curriculum at the University of Cincinnati. Yesterday I got the call I had been dreading eagerly anticipating:

"Mom, when you come visit, you will need to take some of my clothes home, they are too big".

If you have not liked our page, it is a good way to stay on top of the ups and downs of college for a person with a development/intellectual disability. I have no idea what is going to happen....but I  will share the good and the bad. Please click on "The Ordinary Life of an Extraordinary Girl" now.


  1. Thanks for bringing this up. My girls are 6, 5, and 3 and already I worry about the "school lunchroom 20 or more likely 2". It is hard to teach any kid about making good eating choices but my youngest is the worst. Her nickname is Hoover. We have the nutrition and Ds book, but getting from theory to practice is always hard for me. Maybe I can start now with the things you did about letting them choose from a set of foods and keeping track. I am going to do it for all my kids, my boys too!

  2. You have done such a fantastic job with Alex. It doesn't surprise me at all that she's actually losing weight!


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