Maternal and Child Health Research Program

Advancing Applied MCH Research

Healthy Weight Research Network (HW-RN) for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities (ASD/DD)

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Project Number: UA3 MC 25735
Grantee: University of Massachusetts Medical School
Department/Center: E.K. Shriver Center
Project Date: 7/1/2013

Final Report


Principal Investigator

Linda G. Bandini, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics/Director of Nutrition
200 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA  02452
Phone: 781-642-0280


  • Infancy (0-12 months)
  • Toddlerhood (1-2 years)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-21 years)


PROBLEM: Obesity is a significant problem for children with ASD/DD. Although there has been considerable research in the area of obesity for children in the general population, very little research has focused on children with ASD/DD. GOALS & OBJECTIVES: The overarching goal of the HW-RN is to build research capacity that will accelerate the pace of research, achieved by a consensus-driven research agenda: Goal 1: Develop and maintain a national, interdisciplinary research network that focuses on promoting healthy weight among children with ASD/DD. Objectives: (1) Develop a network governance structure, policies, and procedures; (2) Develop a consensus-driven research agenda informed by researchers, clinicians, family members, educators, self-advocates, and policy makers Goal 2: Develop/implement research protocols to fulfill the HW-RN research agenda. Objectives: (1) Fund two small pilot projects annually for formative and/or preliminary studies in key priority areas; (2) Conduct at least one secondary analysis study annually using existing datasets on prevalence, risk factors, and other relevant correlates of weight status among children with ASD/DD; (3) Collaborate on at least one extramural grant proposal. Goal 3: Disseminate network research findings to diverse audiences. Objectives: (1) Develop a website for the HW-RN; (2) Submit at least two manuscripts to peer reviewed journals annually; (3) Disseminate network research findings in publications, products, and events that are relevant to/written for family members and self-advocates; (4) Present research findings at national conferences and workshops; (5) Disseminate findings to a broad community of consumers via the HW-RN website and various organizations and networks. METHODOLOGY The HW-RN will: (1) conduct research to improve knowledge about the prevalence of overweight/obesity, key risk factors, and obesity-related chronic/secondary health conditions among youth with ASD/DD; (2) engage in formative work on the biopsychosocial barriers to physical activity and healthy eating; (3) conduct efficacy/feasibility studies on interventions designed to prevent/reduce excessive weight among youth with ASD/DD; (4) leverage funding support for research that will fulfill the aims of the HW-RN research agenda; and (5) disseminate findings to broad research, clinical, public health and lay audiences. COORDINATION: The HW-RN will be composed of a national, interdisciplinary team of established researchers with expertise in ASD/DD and/or obesity. An advisory panel of nationally-recognized experts in public health, cultural competence, family-centered care, and self-advocacy will provide input into research agenda and will provide guidance on key issues. EVALUATION: Program outcomes will assessed by: the extent to which the aims of each objective have been met; external reviewers' assessment of the quality of research proposals and publications; and feedback from HW-RN participants, advisors, and community members. ANNOTATION: This project aims to develop, coordinate and implement a research agenda to promote healthy weight in children with ASD/DD via interdisciplinary research.




Autism, Cultural Competence, Developmental Disabilities, Family-Centered Care, Health Disparities, Nutrition & Diet, Obesity & Weight Gain, Physical Activity

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