Introducing the Healthy Weight Research Network for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Disabilities

December 18, 2014

The Healthy Weight Research Network for Children with ASD/DD (HWRN) was established in 2013 with funding from the Autism CARES Act via the Maternal Child Health Bureau and is coordinated by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at UMass Medical School in collaboration with Tufts University School of Medicine.

HWRN Mission

The mission of the HWRN is to advance the understanding of obesity risk factors in children with autism spectrum disorder 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.

HWRN Research Agenda

The HWRN focuses on eating patterns, eating behaviors, family practices around food/mealtimes, as well as physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns and the relation of these to weight status. The HWRN also considers how school and community-based organizations exert influence on children's food intake and physical activity and how these environments may be modified to promote healthy weight in youth.  Finally, the HWRN concerns itself with how prevention and intervention programs can be developed, adapted, and delivered in order to be responsive to the needs of youth with ASD/DD and yield the most positive outcomes possible.

The HWRN-ASD/DD fulfills its research agenda by:

·         conducting research using existing datasets to improve knowledge about the prevalence of overweight/obesity, key risk factors, and obesity-related health conditions among children and youth with ASD/DD;

·         engaging in formative work with the aim of understanding biopsychosocial barriers and facilitators to achieving healthy weight status;

·         conducting pilot studies of interventions designed to prevent or reduce excess weight among children and youth with ASD/DD; and

·         developing collaborative relationships to leverage extramural funding to conduct interdisciplinary research. 

Getting Involved with the HWRN

Subscribe to HWRN news.  Community members, families, self-advocates, clinicians, professionals, and others are invited to subscribe to receive HWRN news by going to:

Become an Associate Member. Researchers, policy makers, or other stakeholders whose work is closely aligned with and relevant to the HWRN mission & research agenda may apply to become an Associate Members, who are eligible for applying for pilot funds in conjunction with Members, participating in ListServ discussions, attending educational offerings, and other relevant Network activities. Persons seeking to be an Associate Member are asked to submit a resume/CV and cover letter to [email protected]

For more information, please see our website at:

The HWRN is supported by grant UA3MC25735 Maternal and Child Health Research Program, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.