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Outcomes of a Weight Management Clinic for Children with Special Needs

Gillette, Meredith L. Dreyer PhD*,†,‡; Stough, Cathleen Odar MA‡,§; Beck, Amy R. PhD*,†,‡; Maliszewski, Genevieve MA; Best, Cora M. MHS; Gerling, Janelle K. MOT†,¶; Summar, Shelly MSEd, RD, LD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: May 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 4 - p 266–273
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000055
Original Article

Objective: 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.

Method: 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.

Results: 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).

Conclusion: 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.

*Children's Mercy Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Developmental and Behavioral Sciences, Kansas City, MO;

Children's Mercy Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Weight Management, Kansas City, MO;

Center for Children's Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition, Kansas City, MO;

§Clinical Child Psychology Program, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS;

Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO;

Children's Mercy Hospital, Department of Allied Health Professions, Physical and Occupational Therapy, Kansas City, MO.

Address for reprints: Meredith L. Dreyer Gillette, PhD, Children's Mercy Hospital, 2401 Gillham Road, Kansas City, MO 64108; e-mail:

Disclosure: The study was supported by funding from the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the Kenneth and Eva S. Smith Scholar in Pediatric Obesity Award. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received September , 2013

Accepted February 20, 2014

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins