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The Descriptive Study of Concerns of Parents of Children with ASD and Factors Related to Obesity

Lisa Mische Lawson, Mackaela Bandy, Alesha Kadolph, Anna Le, Shannon Pettersson


Rising childhood obesity rates are recognized as a national epidemic, and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at greater risk for obesity compared to peers without autism. Recreational therapists are challenged to understand factors contributing to obesity so they can develop prevention and intervention programs. The socioecological model of obesity recognizes parents as essential to promoting health behaviors necessary to prevent children’s overweight/obesity. Evidence specific to parents of children with ASD is limited, so this exploratory study examined parent concerns related to ASD and overweight/obesity. Parents of children with ASD reported primary concerns of behavior, food selectivity, and anxiousness for their child’s health and development. Despite potential long-term, negative health consequences, overweight/obesity was not a concern identified by parents, as other behaviors were identified as more pressing. Implications for recreational therapy are provided.

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Autism; developmental milestones; health; obesity; overweight; parental concerns

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