Families with children with special health needs report disruptions during pandemic
Families with children diagnosed with special health needs experienced higher rates of disruption during the pandemic compared with other households, an AAP collaborative survey found.
The AAP, in collaboration with the CDC, Prevent Child Abuse America and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed 9,000 parents over a period of 7 months to measure the impact of the pandemic on family life, adverse childhood experiences and positive childhood experiences.
According to findings from the Family Snapshot Survey, 92% of families with children with special health needs indicated disruptions compared with 74% of other households.
Households with kids with special health needs reported higher rates of disruptions in child care or day care closings, canceled medical or dental appointments and the inability to receive free or reduced cost meals at school, according to the survey.
“Families with children with special health care needs had a particularly hard time during the pandemic,” Robert Sege MD, a pediatrician at Tufts Children’s Hospital and director of the Center for Community-Engaged Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, said in a statement. “Physical distancing meant that, for many families, the therapists that they had depended on were less available, and the loss of in-person schooling may have been even more difficult.”
The survey also found that families in households with children with special needs experienced financial stress (41%) at similar rate as other families (37%), but parents who were employed either full-time or part-time before the pandemic reported a higher percentage of change in employment in households with special needs (61%) compared with other households (46%), indicating that parents from households with special needs were laid off, were furloughed or had reduced work hours at a higher rate.
A total of 15% of parents of children with special needs also reduced their work hours to care for children or family, with female parents were more likely to reduce work hours compared with males (19% v 11%). The number of parents in households without children with special needs reducing work hours to care for children or family was slightly lower at 10%.
“When pediatricians work with these families, it makes sense to ask about how they have coped, and to be on the lookout for lasting problems for both children and adults in the family,” Sege said.
Kuo, D et al. Pediatrics. Jan 2019, 143  e20183171; doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3171