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

Project profile

Institution: University of Massachusetts Medical School
Principal Investigator: Linda G. Bandini
Project Number: UA3MC25735
Project Date: 07-01-2016

Age Group(s)

  • Perinatal/Infancy (0-12 months)
  • Toddlerhood (13-35 months)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-25 years)


Obesity is a significant problem for children with ASD/DD. Although considerable research exists on obesity in children generally research is limited on children with ASD/DD.

Goals and objectives:

The overarching goal of the HWRN is to build research capacity that will accelerate the pace of research achieved by a consensus-driven research agenda. Goal 1: Sustain and expand a national interdisciplinary research network that focuses on promoting healthy weight among children with ASD/DD.


(1) Maintain a Network infrastructure that engages supports and promotes the work of the HWRN and its members; (2) Review/refine our consensus-driven research agenda; and (3) Expand HWRN membership by encouraging researchers in obesity and ASD/DD fields to become involved with the Network to build collaborative bridges between these two spheres. Goal 2: Develop and implement research protocols that fulfill the aims of the network's research agenda.


(1) Fund 2 pilot projects per year corresponding to the HWRN research agenda; (2) Conduct 1 secondary data analysis annually on prevalence risk factors and/or other relevant correlates of weight status in children with ASD/DD; and (3) Collaborate on 2+ extramural grant proposals to leverage additional funding to support HWRN work. Goal 3: Disseminate network research findings to diverse audiences.


(1) Submit 2+ papers to peer-reviewed journals annually; (2) Present HWRN research findings at national meetings; (3) Disseminate HWRN research findings relevant to/written for clinicians family members self-advocates and other lay audiences including guidelines/tool kits providing guidance on preventing or managing obesity in youth with ASD/DD; and (4) Provide HWRN membership with a compilation of the current research on HWRN-related topics. Proposed Activities & Target Populations: The HWRN will: (1) conduct research on the prevalence of overweight/obesity key risk factors and obesity-related health conditions among youth with ASD/DD including under-served populations; (2) engage in formative work on 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 external funding for research that fulfills the HWRN research agenda; and (5) disseminate findings and guidelines to broad research clinical and lay audiences.


The HWRN is composed of a national interdisciplinary team of established researchers with expertise in ASD/DD and/or obesity and a wide array of Associate Members and Subscribers that represent clinicians policy makers researchers family members and selfadvocates. We collaborate with several organizations including the AUCD LEND and UCEDD programs the AIR-P DBP-Net and present at national meetings concerned with both developmental disabilities obesity and health promotion.


10+ peer-reviewed articles; 15+ research presentations; 5 webinars; 15 research summaries; 20 Research Digests; 20 Newsletters; 60 HWRN Funding Bulletins


Program outcomes will assessed by: the extent to which the aims of each objective have been met and feedback from HWRN membership and constituents.


Must A, Curtin C, Hubbard K, Sikich L, Bedford J, Bandini L. Obesity prevention for children with developmental disabilities. Curr Obes Rep. 2014; 3(2): 156-170. DOI:10.1007/s13679-014-0098-7 June 2014 Curr Obes Rep

Chistol LT, Bandini LG, Must A, Phillips S, Cermak SA, Curtin C. Sensory Sensitivity and Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Feb;48(2):583-591. DOI:10.1007/s10803-017-3340-9 February 2018 29116421 J Autism Dev Disord

Egbert AH, Wilfley DE, Eddy KT, Boutelle KN, Zucker N, Peterson CB, Celio Doyle A, Le Grange D, Goldschmidt AB. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms Are Associated with Overeating with and without Loss of Control in Youth with Overweight/Obesity. Child Obes. 2018 Jan;14(1):50-57. DOI:10.1089/chi.2017.0114 January 2018 28945463 Child Obes

Frey GC, Temple VA, Stanish HI. Interventions to promote physical activity for youth with intellectual disabilities. Salud Publica Mex. 2017 Jul-Aug;59(4):437-445. DOI:10.21149/8203 August 2017 29211265 Salud Publica Mex

Lai B, Young HJ, Bickel CS, Motl RW, Rimmer JH. Current Trends in Exercise Intervention Research, Technology, and Behavioral Change Strategies for People With Disabilities: A Scoping Review. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2017 Oct;96(10):748-761. DOI:10.1097/PHM.0000000000000743 October 2017 28398967 Am J Phys Med Rehabil

Polfuss M, Sawin KJ, Papanek PE, Bandini L, Forseth B, Moosreiner A, Zvara K, Schoeller DA. Total energy expenditure and body composition of children with developmental disabilities. Disabil Health J. 2017 Dec 28. pii: S1936-6574(17)30233-9. DOI:10.1016/j.dhjo.2017.12.009 December 2017 29329773 Disabil Health J

Ptomey LT, Saunders RR, Saunders M, Washburn RA, Mayo MS, Sullivan DK, Gibson CA, Goetz JR, Honas JJ, Willis EA, Danon JC, Krebill R, Donnelly JE. Weight management in adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities: A randomized controlled trial of two dietary approaches. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2018 Jan;31 Suppl 1:82-96. DOI:10.1111/jar.12348 January 2018 28332246 J Appl Res Intellect Disabil

Ptomey LT, Willis EA, Greene JL, Danon JC, Chumley TK, Washburn RA, Donnelly JE. The Feasibility of Group Video Conferencing for Promotion of Physical Activity in Adolescents With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Am J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2017 Nov;122(6):525-538. DOI:10.1352/1944-7558-122.6.525 November 2017 29115872 Am J Intellect Dev Disabil

Ptomey LT, Willis EA, Lee J, Washburn RA, Gibson CA, Honas JJ, Donnelly JE. The feasibility of using pedometers for self-report of steps and accelerometers for measuring physical activity in adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities across an 18-month intervention. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2017 Aug;61(8):792-801. DOI:10.1111/jir.12392 August 2017 28707359 J Intellect Disabil Res

Rimmer JH. Equity in active living for people with disabilities: Less talk and more action. Prev Med. 2017 Feb;95 Suppl:S154-S156. DOI:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.12.037 February 2017 28039069 Prev Med

Rimmer JH, Padalabalanarayanan S, Malone LA, Mehta T. Fitness facilities still lack accessibility for people with disabilities. Disabil Health J. 2017 Apr;10(2):214-221 DOI:10.1016/j.dhjo.2016.12.011 April 2017 28143707 Disabil Health J

Temple VA, Frey GC, Stanish HI. Interventions to promote physical activity for adults with intellectual disabilities. Salud Publica Mex. 2017 Jul-Aug;59(4):446-453 DOI:10.21149/8218 August 2017 29211266 Salud Publica Mex

Weems M, Truex L, Scampini R, Fleming R, Curtin C, Bandini L. A Novel Weight-Loss Tool Designed for Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Oct;117(10):1503-1508. DOI:10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.006 October 2017 27815059 J Acad Nutr Diet

Wilroy J, Mehta T, Pekmezi D, Thirumalai M, Young HJ, Rimmer, J. Scale Up Project Evaluating Responsiveness to Home Exercise And Lifestyle Tele-Health (SUPER HEALTH). Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2017;98(10), e107. DOI:10.1016/j.apmr.2017.08.345 October 2017 Arch Phys Med Rehabil.

Amo-Seti�n F, Abajas-Bustillo R, Sarabia-Cobo C, Par�s-Bravo P, Leal-Costa C, Redondo-Figuero C, Bandini L. Prevalence and factors associated with overweight and obesity among Spanish students attending special education schools. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. DOI:10.1111/jar.12679 November 2019 JARID

Bandini LG, Curtin C, Eliasziw M, Phillips S, Jay L, Maslin M, Must A. Food selectivity in a diverse sample of young children with and without intellectual disabilities. Appetite. 2019;133, 433-440. DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2018.11.016 February 2019

Forseth B, Papanek PE, Bandini L, Schoeller D, Moosreiner A, Sawin KJ, Polfuss M. Feasibility and acceptability of a self-report activity diary in families of children with and without special needs. Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing. 2019;42(4):293-303. DOI:10.1080/24694193.2019.1606864 June 2019

Matheson BE, Drahota A, Boutelle KN. A pilot study investigating the feasibility and acceptability of a parent-only behavioral weight-loss treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2019;49(11):4488-4497. DOI:10.1007/s10803-019-04178-8 November 2019 J Autism Dev Disord

Stanish HI, Curtin C, Must A, Phillips S, Maslin M, Bandini LG. (2019). Does physical activity differ between youth with and without intellectual disabilities? Disability and Health Journal. 2019;12(3):503-508. DOI:10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.02.006 July 2019

Tybor DJ, Eliasziw M, Kral TV, Segal M, Sherwood NE, Sikich L, Must A (2019). Parental concern regarding obesity in children with autism spectrum disorder in the United States: National Survey of Children's Health 2016. Disability and Health Journal. 2019;12(1):126-130. DOI:10.1016/j.dhjo.2018.09.004 January 2019

Walls M, Curtin C, Phillips S, Eliasziw M, Jacke C, Must A, Bandini L, Broder-Fingert S. (2020) Developmental and behavioral pediatricians� diagnosis and management of overweight and obesity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.[Published online ahead of print]. doi:10.1097/DBP.000000000000078 DOI:10.1097/DBP.000000000000078 2020

Walls M, Curtin C, Phillips S, et al. Developmental-behavioral pediatricians' diagnosis and coding of overweight and obesity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2020 May; 41(4): 258-264. May 2020 J Dev Behav Pediatr

Folta SC, Curtin C, Must A, Pehrson A, Ryan K, Bandini L. Impact of selective eating on social domains among transition-age youth with autism spectrum disorder: A qualitative study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Aug; 50(8): 2902-2912. August 2020 J Autism Dev Disord

Curtin C, Hyman SL, Boas DD, et al. Weight management in primary care for children with autism: expert recommendations. Pediatrics. 2020 Apr; 145(Suppl 1): S126-s139. April 2020

Schenkelberg MA, McIver KL, Brown WH, Pate RR. Preschool environmental influences on physical activity in children with disabilities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(12):2682-2689. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000002401 DOI:10.1249/MSS.0000000000002401 December 2020 32769812 Med Sci Sports Exerc

Bandini LG, Curtin C, Phillips SM, et al. Nutrient adequacy, dietary patterns and diet quality among children with and without intellectual disabilities. J Intellect Disabil Res. Published online August 3, 2021. doi:10.1111/jir.12871 DOI:10.1111/jir.12871 August 2021 34342094 J Intellect Disabil Res.

Ptomey LT, Willis EA, Reitmeier K, Dreyer Gillette ML, Sherman JR, Sullivan DK. Comparison of energy intake assessed by image-assisted food records to doubly labelled water in adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities: a feasibility study. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2021;65(4):340-347. doi:10.1111/jir.12816 DOI:10.1111/jir.12816 January 2021 33443319 J Intellect Disabil Res.

Bandini LG, Eliasziw M, Dittrich GA, et al. A family-based weight loss randomized controlled trial for youth with intellectual disabilities. Pediatr Obes. Published online June 1, 2021. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12816 DOI:10.1111/ijpo.12816 June 2021 34076370 Pediatr Obes.

Bowling AB, Slavet J, Hendrick C, et al. The Adaptive GameSquad Xbox-based physical activity and health coaching intervention for youth with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses: pilot feasibility study. JMIR Form Res. 2021;5(5):e24566. doi:10.2196/24566 DOI:10.2196/24566 May 2021 33988508 JMIR Form Res

Ranca�o KM, Bandini LG, Curtin C, Eliasziw M, Odoms-Young A, Must A. Gender and racial/ethnic differences in food selectivity in children with intellectual disabilities. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. Published online May 16, 2021. doi:10.1111/jar.12895 DOI:10.1111/jar.12895 May 2021 33998122 J Appl Res Intellect Disabil

Garcia JM, Cathey B, Shurack R, et al. Evaluation of a nutrition education and culinary program for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.�J Nutr Educ Behav. 2021;53(11):987-990. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2021.06.003 DOI:10.1016/j.jneb.2021.06.003 November 2021

Eliasziw, M, Kral, TVE, Segal, M, et al. Healthy-weight kindergarten children with autism spectrum disorder may become overweight and obese during the first few years of elementary school. J Pediatr X. 2021;7:100074. doi:10.1016.j.ympdx.2021.100074 DOI:10.1016.j.ympdx.2021.100074 September 2021

Curtin C, Bowling AB, Boutelle KN, et al. Chapter eight - lifestyle intervention adaptations to promote healthy eating and physical activity of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.�Int Rev Res Dev Disabil. 2021;61:223-261.�doi:� DOI:10.1016/bs.irrdd.2021.07.001 2021

Shurack RH, Garcia JM, Brazendale K, Lee E. Brief Report: Feasibility and Acceptability of a Remote-Based Nutrition Education Program for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A COVID-19 Pilot Study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2022;52(10):4568-4574. doi:10.1007/s10803-021-05301-4 DOI:doi: 10.1007/s10803-021-05301-4 October 2022 34611836 J Autism Dev Disord

Helsel BC, Foster RNS, Sherman J, et al. The Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey: Comparisons with Obesity and Physical Activity in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2023;53(1):89-95. doi:10.1007/s10803-021-05415-9 DOI:doi: 10.1007/s10803-021-05415-9 January 2023 34982325 J Autism Dev Disord

Must A, Eliasziw M, Bowling A, et al. Relationship Between Childhood Obesity and Autism Spectrum Disorder Varies by Child's Age and Parents' Weight Status in a Sample of Sibling Dyads. Child Obes. 2023;19(5):309-315. doi:10.1089/chi.2022.0064 DOI:doi:10.1089/chi.2022.0064 June 2023 Child Obes

Ptomey LT, Oreskovic NM, Hendrix JA, Nichols D, Agiovlasitis S. Weight management recommendations for youth with Down syndrome: Expert recommendations. Front Pediatr. 2023;10:1064108. Published 2023 Feb 3. doi:10.3389/fped.2022.1064108 DOI:doi:10.3389/fped.2022.1064108 February 2023 36819200 Front Pediatr.

Must A, Eliasziw M, Stanish H, Curtin C, Bandini LG, Bowling A. Passive and social screen time in children with autism and in association with obesity. 2023;Front. Pediatr. 11:1198033. doi: 10.3389/fped.2023.1198033 DOI:doi: 10.3389/fped.2023.1198033 July 2023 1198033 Front. Pediatr

Maga�a S, Eliasziw M, Bowling A, and Must A. Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity and contributions of social determinants of health among boys with autism spectrum disorder. Front. 2023;Pediatr. 11:1198073. doi: 10.3389/fped.2023.1198073 DOI:doi: 10.3389/fped.2023.1198073 July 2023 Front.

Fleming RK, Eliasziw M, Dittrich GA, et al. Changes in Physical Activity Associated With a Multicomponent Weight-Loss Randomized Controlled Trial for Youth With Intellectual Disabilities. Adapt Phys Activ Q. Published online November 9, 2023. doi:10.1123/apaq.2023-0030 DOI:doi:10.1123/apaq.2023-0030 November 2023 37944510

Hatfield DP, Must A, Kennedy W, et al. GamerFit-ASD beta test: adapting an evidence-based exergaming and telehealth coaching intervention for autistic youth. Front Pediatr. 2023;11:1198000. Published 2023 Sep 5. doi:10.3389/fped.2023.1198000 0

Helsel BC, Foster RNS, Sherman J, et al. A Remotely Delivered Yoga Intervention for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Feasibility and Effectiveness for Improving Skills Related to Physical Activity. J Autism Dev Disord. 2023;53(10):3958-3967. doi:10.1007/s10803-022-05702-z DOI:doi:10.1007/s10803-022-05702-z October 2023 35939186 J. Autism Dev Disord.

Maga�a S, Errisuriz VL, Yu AP, et al. Associations between parenting strategies and BMI percentile among Latino children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Front Pediatr. 2023;11:1189686. Published 2023 Jul 27. doi:10.3389/fped.2023.1189686 DOI:doi:10.3389/fped.2023.1189686 July 2023 37576140 Front.Pediatr.