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Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Child's Weight-Related Behaviors: A Parents' Perspective. J Pediatr Nurs 2016;31(6):598-607



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-84997701137 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   25 Citations


UNLABELLED: To explore parent perspectives of how the attributes of their child's autism spectrum disorder(ASD) impact nutrition, physical activity, screen time behaviors and risk for obesity. Secondarily, we examined the parent's perception of the healthcare providers (HCP) influence on these weight-related behaviors.

DESIGN AND METHOD: We conducted and audio-recorded telephone interviews with parents of children with ASD (n=8) using a structured question guide. Data were transcribed and thematic analysis was conducted. Issues surrounding weight-related behaviors and parental strategies used were reported.

RESULTS: Two overarching themes with eight subthemes emerged: (1) Challenges related to features of ASD (subthemes included fixation on food, sensory issues/rigidity, developmental factors, impaired social skills, and medication effects) and (2) Challenges related to the care of children with ASD (subthemes included lack of individualized care planning, picking your battles and the impact of ASD on family).

CONCLUSION: Strategies extracted from the parent narratives promoted both healthy and unhealthy weight-related behaviors. The key finding in this study is that some parents did not follow HCP guidance when they perceived that the HCP did not understand their particular situation.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Implementation of healthy weight-related behaviors can be optimized when providers consider the child's challenging ASD behaviors, affirm the difficulties encountered by the family and provide guidance that builds on the individual child/family strengths.

Author List

Polfuss M, Johnson N, Bonis SA, Hovis SL, Apollon F, Sawin KJ


Norah Johnson PhD Assistant Professor in the College ofnursing department at Marquette University

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Child Behavior
Parent-Child Relations
Pediatric Obesity
Severity of Illness Index
Stress, Psychological