Infectious Disease

Families with children with special health needs are reporting disruptions during the pandemic

September 10, 2021

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Families with children diagnosed with special health needs had higher incidence rates during the pandemic compared to other households, a collaborative AAP survey found.

The AAP, in collaboration with the CDC, Prevent Child Abuse in America and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed 9,000 parents over a 7-month period to measure the impact of the pandemic on family life, negative childhood experiences and positive childhood experiences.

Demographics that responded to the study. Source: AAP

According to the results of the Family Snapshot Survey, 92% of families with children with special health needs reported disorders, compared with 74% of other households.

Households with children with special health needs reported higher rates of childcare interruptions or daycare closures, canceled doctor or dentist appointments, and the inability to get free or discounted meals at school, according to the survey.

“It was particularly difficult for families with children with special health needs during the pandemic” Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician at Tufts Children’s Hospital and director of the center for community medicine at Tufts Medical Center said in a statement. “Physical distancing meant that for many families, the therapists they needed were less available and losing personal training might have been even more difficult.”

The survey also found that families in households with children with special needs (41%) were just as likely to experience financial stress as other families (37%). Percentage of change in employment in households with special needs (61%) compared to other households (46%), suggesting that parents from households with special needs have been fired, have been on leave or have more often reduced working hours.

A total of 15% of parents of children with special needs also reduced their working hours to look after children or families, with female parents reducing their working hours more often than male parents (19% vs. 11%). The number of parents in households without children with special needs who reduced their working hours to look after children or families was slightly lower at 10%.

“When pediatricians are working with these families, it makes sense to inquire how they coped with it and look out for lingering problems for both children and adults in the family,” Sege said.

References:

AAP. Family Snapshot Poll. Retrieved September 10, 2021.

Kuo, D. et al. Pediatrics. Jan. 2019, 143 [1] e20183171; doi: 10.1542 / peds.2018-3171

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