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The association of screen time with physical activity and weight status of autistic children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Muhammad Adeeb Najmi Rozaini (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Management and Science University, Shah Alam, Malaysia)
Sarina Sariman (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Management and Science University, Shah Alam, Malaysia)
Aswir Abd Rashed (Institute for Medical Research, National Institutes of Health, Shah Alam, Malaysia, and)
Norshafarina Shari (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Management and Science University, Shah Alam, Malaysia)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 29 August 2022

Issue publication date: 28 February 2023

179

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the screen time used by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children and its association with their physical activity and weight status.

Design/methodology/approach

This cross-sectional study was conducted among 100 purposive sampled children registered under the National Autism Society of Malaysia centres in Kuala Lumpur. Parents-administered questionnaire composed of socio-demographic, anthropometric data (height and weight of the children), Autism Severity Questionnaire, Screen Time Questionnaire and Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Children (PAQ-C) was used in this study.

Findings

Respondents in this study were categorised as having mild ASD (55%). Most of the respondents had higher screen time (78%), with average (4.14 ± 3.19) h spent using the devices. The respondents had low physical activity level (54%), with average PAQ-C scores of (2.38 ± 0.79). Average BMI-for-age z-scores was 1.06 ± 2.15, which was in the normal category. Approximately, 34% of the respondents were overweight and obese. BMI-for-age was positively associated with screen time during weekdays (χ2 = 11.06; p < 0.05) but not during weekend (χ2 = 3.14; p > 0.05). Spearman correlation test showed negative relationships between screen time on weekdays (rs = −0.30 and p < 0.01) and weekend (rs = −0.21 and p < 0.05) with PAQ-C of this group of ASD children.

Practical implications

Screen time was directly associated with the BMI-for-age z-score but was inversely associated with physical activity. Future studies could implement a structured physical activity intervention among children with ASD, which may increase physical activity and decrease screen time behaviours while addressing the overweight/obesity and cognitive aspects of these ASD children.

Originality/value

This study measured the amount of screen time, level of physical activity and weight status but not dietary intake of autistic children.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thanks participants and teachers from National Autism Society of Malaysia for their contribution to the study.

Citation

Rozaini, M.A.N., Sariman, S., Abd Rashed, A. and Shari, N. (2023), "The association of screen time with physical activity and weight status of autistic children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 53 No. 3, pp. 549-563. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-02-2022-0038

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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