Healthy Weight Research Network (HWRN) Update

December 15, 2015

The Healthy Weight Research Network for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities (HWRN) was established in July 2013 with Autism CARES funding via the Maternal Child Health Bureau's (MCHB). The HWRN is led by researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at UMass Medical School, in collaboration with Tufts University School of Medicine. The HWRN's mission is to advance the understanding of obesity risk factors in children with ASD and other developmental disabilities, to promote the development of evidence-based solutions to achieve healthy weight in this population, and to disseminate research findings to broad and diverse audiences.

As part of fulfilling its research agenda, the HWRN provides funding for small pilot grants to its members and associate members who participate in a competitive application process. To date, the HWRN has funded five pilot projects which include:

  • Promotion of physical activity in adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (PI: Lauren Ptomey, PhD; University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute)
  • Family based weight loss treatment for autism spectrum disorder (PI: Kerri Boutelle, PhD; University of California, San Diego)
  • Using dance to promote fitness and well-being among adolescent girls with ID (PI: Heidi Stanish, PhD; University of Massachusetts, Boston)
  • Diet quality, parental perceptions, and weight gain among adolescents with an intellectual/developmental disability (PI: Kelly Forbush, PhD; University of Kansas)
  • An adaptive research design to optimize weight management intervention in young children with ASD (PI: Meredith Dreyer-Gillette, PhD; University of Missouri, Kansas City)

In addition, in the afternoon on May 11, 2016, the HWRN will be holding a free symposium that has been scheduled just prior to the start of the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in Baltimore, Maryland. The symposium will feature HWRN researchers who will present on current research on topics related to the HWRN's research agenda, including the epidemiology of obesity in children with ASD and DD, child eating and physical activity patterns, and clinical and community-based approaches to addressing achieving a healthy weight status. More information about the HWRN Symposium will be forthcoming in mid-January. Individuals that wish to attend can send an e-mail to HWRN@umassmed.edu. Please visit the HWRN website for more information and ways to join.