Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Education and Human Services


Nutrition and Food Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lauren Dinour

Committee Member

Douglas Murray

Committee Member

Mousumi Bose


The number of adults diagnosed with developmental disabilities in the United States is increasing; this population is underserved and underfunded, especially in the area of nutrition education. Health concerns for adults with developmental disabilities include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and disordered eating, all of which could be alleviated or prevented with proper nutritional care and education. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a nutrition education program in a community of developmentally disabled adults. The intervention took place in an adult day center in Bergen County, New Jersey, where a group of adults with developmental disabilities (n=16, ages 21-29 years) participated in an 8-week, tailored nutrition education program based on the social cognitive theory. The comparison group (n=6, ages 21-31years) received instruction unrelated to nutrition education for the same time period. Both groups had a mixture of diagnoses and abilities. This study utilized a mixed-methods approach; primary outcome measures included changes in observed behavior, skills, and survey-reported cognitive knowledge.

Results showed a 44% increase in nutrition cognitive knowledge following intervention compared to baseline, whereas there was no observed change in the comparison group. Nutritional intervention also resulted in changes in lunch choices compared to baseline. A majority of center adults receiving nutritional intervention influenced the overall lunch choice environment. Three specific areas of importance to the basis of nutrition education in adults with developmental disability were identified: program knowledge, individual control of behavior, and staff and caregiver-based support.

This study demonstrated that adults with developmental disabilities have the ability to retain and understand nutritional knowledge, and make healthful choices about foods based on this knowledge. Furthermore, these behavior changes regarding food choices following intervention may encourage other individuals within the community to modify food choices, suggesting a broader impact of this program beyond the active participants. Overall, these results provide a valuable framework for designing and implementing community based nutrition education programs for adults with developmental disabilities.

Included in

Nutrition Commons