The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), in cooperation with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination (ZHO), Abu Dhabi announced the launch of a joint multidisciplinary academic research study to examine the factors that determine health-related quality of life in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Dr. Amita Attlee - Head of Nutrition and Health Department, and research team leader at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences in the United Arab Emirates University, said, “This joint research aims to understand the various factors that influence health-related quality of life in children with ASD, and contribute to the early detection of feeding problems in these children, especially since the percentage of children with ASD is increasing”. "In light of the lack of scientific evidence related to the health and nutrition of these children in the country, we, in cooperation with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, are conducting comprehensive academic research to investigate the health aspects and nutrition-related child behavior. It aims to identify the parental stresses and strategies in feeding their children with ASD," she said.
She pointed out that this study will create a comprehensive perception and understanding of the factors that affect the quality of life related to the health of children with ASD, stressing that early detection of these cases through simple methods would assist decision-makers in designing strategies and improving health-related quality of life.
The co-investigators in this research are: Prof. Mauro Pessia, from the Department of Physiology, Prof. Khaled Tarabily, from the Department of Biology, Ms. Salma Al-Hebshi, from the Department of Nutrition and Health, in the United Arab Emirates University, and Ms. Moza Ahmed Sultan Muhammad Al-Salami, Director of the Al Ain Autism Center, Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination.
The target group of this research is children with ASD, who are registered at the Al Ain Autism Center. Data will be collected from March 2021 to March 2022, and for this purpose, the research team, in cooperation with ZHO, conducted an orientation workshop for parents, to highlight the importance of this study and their support in this research.
This is the first comprehensive study of various aspects of a child's health, lifestyle factors, diet/ nutrient adequacy, nutrition-related behavior and parental feeding actions, inflammation and specific genetic changes involved in the pathogenesis of ASD in the UAE. This study is expected to predict health-related determinants of quality of life in children with ASD, regardless of phenotype, using a comparative research with typically developing children. In addition, the research team will validate culturally sensitive assessment tools for early detection of child feeding problems and parental feeding actions that will be helpful in developing targeted interventions to address health problems related to nutrition in children with ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that cause poor social communication and the emergence of unusual behavioral patterns such as repetitive behavior, and it is usually diagnosed in early childhood. These obstacles and challenges cause stress on parents of children with ASD, who adopt nutritional practices that may greatly affect the health and nutrition of their children. It makes it difficult for these children to maintain a healthy body weight, thus resulting in overweight or obesity on one hand, while the dietary imbalances cause nutrient deficiencies on the other hand. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and sleep problems are also reported in these children that could be greatly improved with optimized and tailored nutritional and lifestyle strategies.
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