Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Exercise and Health Science

First Advisor

Richard K. Fleming

Second Advisor

Laurie Milliken

Third Advisor

Gretchen Dittrich


Youth with intellectual disabilities (ID) are at higher risk for being overweight and obese. Family-based interventions have been efficacious in promoting weight loss in typically developing children, but similar applications with children and youth with ID are just now being studied. Parental involvement and adherence to lifestyle change procedures appear to be critical to the success of family-based interventions, but current research provides no comprehensive method of quantifying adherence beyond attendance at sessions and other simple assessments of parent engagement. The purpose of the current study was to develop and evaluate the utility of a system for measuring four key indices of parent adherence to lifestyle change procedures in an ongoing family-based weight loss intervention for youth with ID aged 15-22 years. Six parents participated with their child in a 24-week intervention. The investigator measured parental adherence across four indices: attendance at weekly sessions; monitoring of their child’s healthy eating (HE), physical activity, (PA) and screen time (ST) behaviors; goal setting to improve their child’s HE, PA, and ST; and completion of complex homework exercises. The four indices were evaluated for frequency (of attendance and submission of forms), and both completeness and quality of submissions, using a novel scoring system. Results indicated that parents had high session attendance rates, and high submission, completeness, and quality rates for monitoring and goal setting. However, adherence to homework exercises was very low for both rate of submission and quality. While small in scope, this study represents a successful attempt to reliably quantify multiple indices of parent adherence to lifestyle change procedures associated with a family-based weight loss intervention for children and youth. Having data on these indices of adherence should allow for a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between the rates and quality of adherence and weight loss, and other health outcomes in future research.


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