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P150 Development of an 8-Week Early Childhood Nutrition Education Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their Parents

      Objective

      Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience more problematic mealtime behaviors compared to neurotypical children. The prevalence of overweight/obesity is also higher in children with ASD. The aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive nutrition education intervention program to be used by Early Intervention providers who work with children with ASD and their parents.

      Use of Theory or Research

      The nutrition education manual for early intervention providers was developed based on the 2019 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Pediatric Nutritional Care Manual and other evidence-based autism-specific feeding strategies, in conjunction with the social cognitive theory for behavioral change.

      Target Audience

      Early intervention providers who work with children with ASD ages 0-3 years and their parents.

      Program Description

      The Autism Eats program with eight 20-minute weekly lessons addresses: (1) Feeding milestones, (2) Exploring taste/flavor/texture, (3) Mealtime routines/schedules, (4) Balanced eating/nutrition, (5) Strategies for introducing new foods, (6) Dining-out and beverages, (7) Fill-and-Full, and (8) Maintaining healthy nutrition.

      Evaluation Methods

      A Qualtrics survey was used to measure providers’ perceived feasibility and acceptability of the nutrition education intervention. The survey consisted of 7 Likert scale questions (from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”) and 3 open-ended questions for each lesson. Four health psychology experts who work as providers to children with ASD reviewed the manual and completed the survey.

      Results

      The mean scores were greater than 4 (of a possible 5) points for all questions, including preparation time, clarity, activity relevance, background information, feasibility, and overall relevance to the goal, except for the question on estimated ability to complete the weekly activity with the parent/child within the 20-minute time frame, which had a mean of 3.9 (ranged 2.5-5).

      Conclusions

      The Autism Eats program provides meaningful information and activities relevant to addressing feeding behavioral problems and autism-specific nutritional concerns. Minor revisions are needed to adjust the length of the activities to comply with the pre-determined 20-minute time slot.

      Funding

      University of South Florida Women's Health Collaborative Betty Castor Grant.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data