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      Chronic health and lifestyle problems for people diagnosed with autism in a student-led clinic

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          People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at greater risk of developing chronic health and risky lifestyle problems. This is exaggerated further for people living in rural settings and from cultural backgrounds traditionally underserved by healthcare services. The purpose of this paper is to describe an evaluation of health and behavioural lifestyle outcomes of people diagnosed with ASD in a student-led clinic in rural/regional Australia.


          Routine clinical outcomes and lifestyle measures were routinely collected at a primary acre student-led Clinic in rural/regional Australia. Participants were all attending the clinic who provided consent for their routine date to be reported. Participants ranged in age from new born to 100 years and were representative of the local community.


          The results indicate there is an increased risk for people with ASD developing chronic conditions compared to those without a diagnosis. This also resulted in higher body mass index and blood sugar levels linked to diabetes and hypertension. Mental health problems were common in people diagnosed with ASD especially anxiety disorders. Smoking was problematic for people with ASD but mainly in non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Alcohol use was not an increase risk in ASD.


          Little is reported on the health and lifestyle experiences of people with ASD in rural/regional settings, especially from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This paper gives an initial insight to the presentation of chronic conditions and harmful lifestyle choices. Possible insights into adapting or modifying care for people with ASD in rural/regional Australia are given.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Social determinants and the health of Indigenous Australians.

          Health is dependent on conditions that enable people to live lives they would choose to live.
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            Current perspectives on physical activity and exercise recommendations for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

            Recent evidence suggests that childhood obesity is increasing in children who are developing typically as well as in children with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Impairments specific to autism as well as general environmental factors could lead to an imbalance between the intake and expenditure of energy, leading to obesity. In this article, we describe the mechanisms by which autism-specific impairments contribute to obesity. The evidence on exercise interventions to improve physical fitness, address obesity, and reduce autism-specific impairments in children and adolescents with ASDs is discussed. Limited evidence is currently available for exercise interventions in individuals with ASDs. Therefore, literature on other pediatric developmental disabilities and children who are developing typically was reviewed to provide recommendations for clinicians to assess physical activity levels, to promote physical fitness, and to reduce obesity in children and adolescents with ASDs. There is a clear need for further systematic research to develop sensitive assessment tools and holistic multisystem and multifactorial obesity interventions that accommodate the social communication, motor, and behavioral impairments of individuals with ASDs.
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              Physical activity, dietary habits and overall health in overweight and obese children and youth with intellectual disability or autism.

              In children and youth with disability, the risk of obesity is higher and is associated with lower levels of physical activity, inappropriate eating behaviors, and chronic health conditions. We determined the effectiveness of a program in managing weight, through changes in physical activity and nutrition behaviors in overweight and obese New Zealand children and youth with intellectual disability or autism. Twenty-two children and youth 14±4 y (mean±SD) and their families participated in a 10-week school-based program. The program consisted of 18 sessions focusing on physical activity and nutrition. Changes were measured immediately after completion of the program (post 1) and at 24 weeks (follow up). Fitness was assessed with the six-minute walk-test (6MWT) and body fatness via waist circumference and BMI. Physical activity and nutrition changes were measured by means of proxy reporting and interviews with parents. Individual interviews were conducted with school teachers and program leaders at 24 weeks to gain feedback regarding the program. Most quantitative outcomes were either unclear or trivial. The only possible change was observed in the six-minute walk-test where 24 weeks post program where participants walked 51 m further. There was however, a substantial reduction in the consumption of confectionery and chocolate at the two measurement points. Parents commented that during the program there were less hospital visits and absences from school related to illness. The program assisted in the development of a supportive community network and participants' abilities to partake in family and community activities. This the first study to report on the results of a physical activity and nutrition program targeted in children and youth with intellectual disability and autism. The results of this study may support and inform future developments of an integrated weight management and prevention program to enhance the health and well being in children and youth with disabilities. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing Limited
                03 April 2018
                : 4
                : 2
                : 66-72
                School of Human & Health Science – Nursing & Midwifery, University of Huddersfield , Huddersfield, UK
                London South Bank University , London, UK
                University of New England , Armidale, Australia
                Department of Nursing, University at Buffalo , Buffalo, New York, USA
                Author notes
                Barry Tolchard can be contacted at: B.Tolchard@hud.ac.uk
                608294 AIA-01-2018-0002.pdf AIA-01-2018-0002
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 34, Pages: 7, Words: 3687
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
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