Therapy use for U.S. school-aged children with developmental disabilities: State variation and determinants

Disabil Health J. 2022 Jan;15(1):101198. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2021.101198. Epub 2021 Aug 28.


Background: Therapy services can support developmental needs, improve social emotional outcomes, and reduce persistent health inequities for children with developmental disabilities (DD). Receipt of therapy services may be especially timely when children with DD are school-aged, once diagnosis has often occurred. Yet limited knowledge exists on geographic variability and determinants of therapy use among school-aged U.S. children with DD.

Objectives: We aimed to (1) determine if therapy use varies significantly by state and (2) examine associations of health determinants with therapy use among U.S. school-aged children with DD.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of 2016 and 2017 National Survey of Children's Health data. The sample included 9984 children with DD ages 6-17 years. We obtained odds ratios and predicted margins with 95% confidence intervals from multilevel logistic regression models to examine therapy use variation and determinants.

Results: Overall, 34.6% of children used therapy services. Therapy use varied significantly across states (σ2 = 0.11, SE = 0.04). Younger age, public insurance, functional limitations, individualized education program, frustration accessing services, and care coordination need were associated with higher adjusted odds of therapy access. In states with Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waivers, higher estimated annual waiver cost was associated with lower adjusted odds of therapy use.

Conclusions: Results highlight geographic disparities in therapy use and multilevel targets to increase therapy use for school-aged children with DD.

Keywords: Children; Developmental disabilities; Geographic variation; Health determinants; Therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Developmental Disabilities* / therapy
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Medicaid
  • Odds Ratio
  • United States