Effectiveness of a virtual nutrition education intervention for parents of children with autism and obesity: A YouTube study



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Aim: The primary aim of this dissertation was to develop and test a YouTube-delivered nutrition education curriculum to a) increase self-efficacy and nutrition knowledge among parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and overweight or obesity to feed their children a healthy diet; b) The secondary aims were to improve their child’s mealtime behaviors and dietary variety.

Methods: For Study 1, five parents tested a brief (2-week) intervention which consisted of 6 videos on MyPlate, food groups, a recipe, and a Social Story™. Parents were advised to watch these videos and complete 5 surveys: demographics, self-efficacy, nutrition knowledge, ASA24, and Brief Autism Mealtime Behavior Inventory (BAMBI) to test their validity. Parents also answered a qualitative feedback survey to suggest ways to modify the curriculum. For Study 2, fifteen parents were randomized into intervention (n = 10) or control (n = 5). The intervention group participated in an 8-week YouTube-delivered nutrition education program while the control did not. Both groups completed baseline, midpoint, and endpoint surveys to assess self-efficacy, nutrition knowledge, ASA24, and BAMBI, followed by a qualitative satisfaction survey by the intervention group only. Non-parametric tests (Wilcoxon ranked test) were used to compare between groups mean scores over time. NVivo was used for qualitative analysis.

Results: In Study 1, participants expressed the need for longer videos on education topics along with more recipe demonstrations. In Study 2, participants in the intervention group (n = 10) showed improvements in parental nutrition knowledge (p = 0.046) and self-efficacy (p = 0.050). However, no improvements were observed in the children’s mealtime behaviors or nutrient intake scores. Analysis of the satisfaction survey revealed that parents found the YouTube curriculum easy to follow, thorough, and effective in encouraging positive eating behaviors in their child with ASD.

Conclusions and recommendations: The findings suggest that an 8-week YouTube-based intervention may improve parents’ self-efficacy and nutrition knowledge in children with autism and weight issues, but a longer study period is needed to see changes in their child’s mealtime behaviors and dietary intake. Future research should focus on evaluating the effectiveness of this curriculum in a large population for a longer duration.



Health Sciences, Nutrition, Education, Curriculum and Instruction