Overview of the Community/Lifestyle Node

Drs. Priyanka Fernandes & Candace Gragnani

Mission: Our goal is to pursue interventions that, first and foremost, utilize the local Autistic community’s input to guide the development and implementation of interventions aimed at
improving the lifestyle of Autistic individuals and their families. We aim to promote whole-person growth and wellness by prioritizing creative educational delivery methods.

Research Agenda: Autistic individuals are at disproportionate risk for unhealthy weight across the lifespan. They represent just one of many communities with unique considerations for
tailoring interventions designed to improve nutrition and physical activity. Additionally, restrictive eating behaviors, sensory issues, specialized diets, social and behavioral impairments, motor impairments, and family factors are key considerations in addressing barriers to optimal nutrition and physical activity in Autistic individuals. Research priorities include developing interventions that promote healthy lifestyles such as nutrition and physical activity, and also promote social connectedness, building self-advocacy capacities, and engaging families and communities.

The Community-Based Lifestyle Interventions node is in the very early stages of formation, agenda setting, and planning. We are looking for ANSWER members to collaborate with node
leaders on creating its research agenda, establishing a workflow for moving forward, and getting the node up and running. Those who are particularly interested in building from the ground up are especially encouraged to apply.

Identified Community/Lifestyle ANSWER reps will:

  • Meet with node leaders twice annually to discuss activities of the node and ongoing research within the node supported by AIR-P (~2 hours/meeting)
  • Between meetings, participants will engage in independent work to contribute effectively to the co-design process
  • Help create the research priorities for community-based interventions
  • Help design a strategic plan for the community-based lifestyle interventions node within the AIR-P research network
  • Review research proposals and provide feedback on assigned projects, applications, and other active projects across the node
  • Support decisions about project applications and proposals to ensure the right questions are being asked and that the right evaluation metrics are being used Authorship opportunity (optional)
  • Attend monthly virtual meetings with node leaders to collaboratively develop a guidance document. This document will focus on neurodiversity considerations to enhance inclusivity in community-based lifestyle interventions for youth and families. (1 hr/month)

We are looking for individuals with the following experience:

  • Autistic/Neurodivergent lived experience

Preferred Qualifications for Community/Lifestyle ANSWER Reps:

  • Interest in exploring opportunities to promote and support physical and mental well-being for Autistic individuals and their families in community-based spaces
  • Interest in community-based participatory research approaches
  • Interest in lifestyle medicine and upstream approaches to health and well-being
  • Interest in rethinking models of care