The Impact of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 on Therapy Service Delivery for Children with Disabilities

J Pediatr. 2021 Apr:231:168-177.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.12.060. Epub 2020 Dec 25.


Objective: To assess the impact of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the delivery of, and parent satisfaction with, therapy services for children with disabilities in early intervention, school, and outpatient settings.

Study design: There were 207 parents of children with disabilities who completed a web-based survey about their child[ren]'s access to, and satisfaction with, therapy services during COVID-19. Parents also completed the Family-Provider Partnership Scale and the Telehealth Satisfaction Scale. Satisfaction was compared between families receiving therapies in school, early intervention, outpatient, and multiple settings.

Results: Forty-four percent of parents reported low satisfaction with their child[ren]'s therapy services during the pandemic. Access to telehealth positively predicted overall satisfaction and satisfaction with the family-provider partnership, whereas receiving school-based therapies negatively predicted overall satisfaction and satisfaction with the family-provider partnership.

Conclusions: School-based therapies are legally mandated for eligible students, free of cost to families, integrated in the academic setting, and less burdensome on parents than other services. Thus, given the disparity in parental satisfaction regarding school-based service delivery, addressing therapy delivery in school-based settings during the duration of COVID-19 is critical for preventing increased disparities and more effectively meeting children's needs. Telehealth seems to be a promising option for continuing high-quality services during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and for families who face barriers in accessing services in general. Future studies are warranted with larger and more diverse samples, as well as longitudinal studies that monitor service access and parent satisfaction throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

Keywords: IEP; coronavirus; early intervention; occupational therapy; outpatient therapy; parent satisfaction; physical therapy; related services; special education; telehealth; therapeutic intervention; virtual therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Young Adult