Pilot and Feasibility Projects

2022 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project SummaryMulti Generation African American Family On Cycle Ride

The Adaption of the GameSquad Exergaming Intervention for Young Adults with Down Syndrome: A Pilot Feasibility Study

PI: Kameron Suire, PhD, ACSM-EP; University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.

  • Summary: This project aims to adapt and test a physical activity intervention (GameSquad) which combines an exergame technology with virtual health coaching for increasing moderate-to vigorous physical activity, physical function, and muscle strength in young adults with Down Syndrome.

2020 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summaries

Interrelationships Between Balance, Physical Activity, Adiposity, and Motor Skill Competency in Children with ASD

PI: E. Andrew Pitchford, PhD, CAPE; Iowa State University

  • Summary: This project will assess motor skill competence, balance, adiposity, and physical activity to examine the interrelationships between these factors in 5-10-year-old children with and without ASD. These findings will be used to inform the development of interventions to promote physical activity and motor development in children with ASD.

Promoting Obesity Prevention Among Children with Developmental Disabilities and Families through Engaged Research II

PI: Sandy Magaña, PhD; The University of Texas at Austin

  • Summary: The investigators will compare the impact of shelter-in-place policies on health and health behaviors in children with ASD/DD in non-Latinx families and Latinx families. This pilot study will build on a current proposal funded by NIDILRR to understand health and health behaviors in Latinx children with ASD/DD and will provide important information for future emergency preparedness planning.

Remote Delivery of a Yoga Intervention to Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

PI: Brian Helsel, MS, PhD, CSCS; The University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.

  • Summary: The investigators will assess the feasibility of an in-home, 12 week remote-based yoga intervention for adolescents with ASD. This project will evaluate changes in physical activity-related skills (i.e., motor control, strength, static and dynamic balance, and flexibility) that are important to regular participation in physical activity. Additionally, the investigators will measure differences in moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA); enjoyment, beliefs, perceived barriers, and self-efficacy toward physical activity; and parent beliefs and attitudes of their child’s physical activity practices.

2019 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summary

Development of a Family-Centered Cooking Class for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 PI: Jeanette M. Garcia, PhD; University of Central Florida

  •  Summary: This project will pilot test a family-centered nutrition education intervention that includes cooking classes for 15 adolescents with ASD and their families. Primary aims are to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of a family-based nutrition education program and to examine the sustainability of the skills.

2018 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summaries

The Validity of Image-Assisted Food Record in Adolescents with IDD

PI: Lauren Ptomey, PhD, RD; University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.

  • Summary: The goal of this project is to assess the feasibility of conducting an energy intake validation study in adolescents with IDD, and to evaluate the agreement and compare mean daily energy intake obtained from image-assisted 3-day food records (IAR) with mean daily energy expenditure in 20 adolescents with IDD.

Supporting Preschool Teachers to Promote Physically Active Play Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Disabilities

PI: Jessica Hoffman, PhD, NCSP; Northeastern University

  • Summary: The goal of this project is to develop and to provide preliminary evidence that supports an online professional development program for preschool teachers who work with children with ASD/DD that is free of charge and can be accessed at any time, in any location, thus building the capacity of child care settings to appropriately promote sufficient daily PA, and ultimately healthy weight, among this population.

2017 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summaries

Trajectory of Body Mass Index in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Follow-up to a Feeding Intervention

PI: Courtney Aponte, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center

  • Summary: This project will follow-up with participants from a randomized controlled (wait-list) trial on parent training for feeding, in which 42 parents of children with ASD aged 2 to 7 learned behavioral strategies to increase their child’s acceptance of new foods, improve their child’s behavior during meals, and teach self-help skills related to meals.  Body mass index (BMI), behavioral difficulties associated with meals, family practices around meals, parent stress, and 3-day food records were assessed at 3-time points.  The researchers will follow up with participants from this trial in order to examine predictors and correlates of obesity in this cohort. The goal is to use these data to elucidate risk factors for obesity that are specific for children with ASD.

Exploring Physical Activity Among Preschoolers with Developmental Delay (DD) and Autism

PI: Michaela Schenkelberg, MPH, University of South Carolina

  • Summary: This project aims to: 1) develop a reliable observational instrument to measure PA of preschoolers with DD;  2) describe the PA behaviors of preschoolers with DD in the preschool setting, and 3) identify associations between the PA behaviors of preschoolers with DD and features of the social and physical environment within the preschool setting.   Informal observations of special education preschool environments, interviews with experts in early childhood and special education, and literature reviews will be used to inform the development of a new PA observation instrument. Reliability of the new PA instrument will be assessed with a sub-sample of participants and the new instrument will be compared with an existing measure. Then, a cross-sectional observational study of the PA behaviors and environmental influences (social and physical) will be conducted on a sample of 50 to 75 children with DD, with the goal of describing the levels of and factors that influence PA behaviors of preschoolers with DD in the preschool setting.

Does Food Addiction Mediate the Relationship Between BMI and Autism Spectrum Disorder?

PI: Gregory Wallace, PhD, Assistant Professor, George Washington University

  • Summary: This project seeks to identify possible psychological mechanisms underpinning overeating and its links to increased body mass index (BMI) in children with ASD. Online questionnaires will be used to examine the prevalence of food addiction in ASD and its possible contributions to overeating and elevated BMI in ASD; in-person assessment will be used to examine implicit food wanting (i.e., unconscious desire for food), explicit food liking, and their possible contributions to overeating and increased BMI in ASD. The rationale for the proposed research is that identifying psychological mechanisms underlying overeating in ASD will allow examination of neural underpinnings of these behaviors and provide treatment targets, both of which can be explored in subsequent applications for grant funding.

Facilitating Management of Overweight and Obesity in Children with Autism in Primary Care

PI: Morgan Walls, MD, Boston Medical Center

  • Summary: This project seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of the potential barriers and facilitators to the successful implementation of guideline-recommended care or interventions for children with ASD. The researchers will conduct a series of focus groups with primary care providers to assess barriers and facilitators to the implementation of clinical practice guidelines for overweight and obesity in children with ASD in primary care.  A community advisory board will be used to review the progress and results of the research, help disseminate information, and assist in planning and implementing future projects and interventions. The goal is that these focus group findings will directly inform the dissemination of expert recommendations developed by the Healthy Weight Research Network (HWRN) on caring for obesity for children with ASD in primary care.

2015 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summaries

Using Dance to Promote Fitness and Well-Being in Adolescent Girls with Intellectual Disabilities (ID)

PI: Heidi Stanish, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts-Boston

  • Summary:  Dance represents a promising vehicle for promoting PA among girls generally, and may be particularly well-suited to girls with intellectual disabilities (ID). Dance programs have been shown to improve a host of health and mental health outcomes including aerobic capacity, body mass index (BMI), flexibility, self-esteem, body image, and self-rated health in girls. The pilot project tested the feasibility of a 10-week dance intervention for 16-20 adolescent girls with ID that includes group dance classes held at a YMCA and an at-home practice component. Implementation of the intervention was evaluated, including measures of enjoyment, satisfaction, attendance, retention, engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in group classes, and participation level in at-home practice sessions. Changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and the impact of the intervention on participants’ physical self-perception was examined.

An Adaptive Research Design to Optimize Weight Management Intervention in Young Children

PI: Meredith Dreyer-Gillete, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Missouri

  • Summary: Though effective family-based interventions have been developed to treat obesity among typically developing children, children with ASD are often excluded from research and clinical programs due to their unique needs. The team developed a clinic-based intervention for children with special needs, which has shown statistically significant results, yet they are not at the level needed to achieve metabolic changes. The current proposal built upon this foundation and utilize an adaptive research design to increase the intervention’s intensity and responsivity to achieve greater BMI z-score change in young children with ASD. Twenty children and families received the initial 6-week parent-only intervention and non-responders received an 8-week individual behavioral feeding intervention. The specific aims were to: a) to determine the impact of a pilot adaptive weight management intervention on health outcomes for families of 4-8-year-olds with ASD and overweight, and b) to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention.

Diet Quality, Parental Perceptions and Weight Gain Among Adolescents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

PI: Kelsie Forbush, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center

  • Summary: The objective of this project was to identify how diet quality affects BMI percentile (%), and to test determinants of diet quality among adolescents with IDD who are participating in an ongoing federally-funded randomized controlled weight-loss trial. The secondary aims were to 1) identify adolescent and parent characteristics that predict diet quality and 2) test whether diet quality over time differs between treatment groups. At the completion of the study, investigators expect to have identified important predictors of diet quality among adolescents with IDD enrolled in an ongoing treatment trial.

2014 Pilot & Feasibility Funded Project Summaries

Promotion of Physical Activity in Adolescents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

PI: Lauren Ptomey, PhD, RD, LD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc. (submitted in conjunction with Joe Donnelly, HWRN member)

  • Summary: This 12-week pilot project explored using technology to deliver a physical activity program to 30 adolescents with IDD using video conferencing via a tablet computer. Three times per week, a 30-minute PA session, focusing on both cardiovascular and strength training was delivered to groups of five adolescents with IDD in their homes by video conferencing on a tablet computer. The primary aim was to assess the feasibility of delivering a group-based PA intervention, conducted via video conferencing on a tablet computer, in a sample of adolescents with IDD.

Family-Based Weight-Loss Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (FBT-ASD)

PI: Kerri Boutelle, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, San Diego
A mother, father, and a daughter with downs syndrome in the kitchen making a salad

  • Summary: This project entailed the design of a parent-only family-based behavioral treatment (FBT) for weight loss specifically tailored to the unique needs and concerns parents of children with ASD (FBT-ASD). Existing FBT manuals are modified to incorporate parenting skills and behavior modification strategies unique to parents of children with ASD as well as session topics that focus on ASD and dietary restrictions, increasing child motivation, introducing novel food stimuli to children, and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. This pilot application evaluates feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy of a weight-loss treatment that combines parenting skills and weight-loss strategies tailored specifically for parents of overweight and obese children between the ages of 5-13 years old with a diagnosis of ASD. Link to Center for Human Eating Research

A Pilot Study Investigating the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Parent-Only Behavioral Weight-Loss Treatment for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.