Rates of obesity are elevated among children with special needs (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, or developmental disabilities). The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary tailored intervention to treat obesity among youth with special needs.
Seventy-six children aged 2 to 19 years participated in a multidisciplinary weight management clinic adapted for children with special needs. A description of the patients presenting for specialized clinical services is provided, and the impact of the intervention on child body mass index (BMI) and food variety was examined for a subset (n = 30) of children. Descriptive statistics of the patient population at baseline were calculated and a series of t tests, correlations, and analysis of variance models examined change in BMI z-scores (BMIz) and diet variety. Factors related to treatment outcomes were also explored.
BMIz decreased significantly by the 6-month follow-up (M = 2.43 to M = 2.36, p < .01). There were significant increases in the variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains that children ate (t(16) = 3.18, p < .01; t(16) = 2.63, p = .02; t(16) = 2.37, p = .03, respectively).
A multidisciplinary clinic-based intervention was effective in reducing BMIz over a 6-month period and increasing the variety of foods that children were eating. These results have implications for providing tailored weight management interventions for youth with obesity and special needs.