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DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000001227


OBJECTIVE: Understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic affected children with disabilities is essential for future public health emergencies. We compared children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with those with another developmental disability (DD) and from the general population (POP) regarding (1) missed or delayed appointments for regular health/dental services, immunizations, and specialty services; (2) reasons for difficulty accessing care; and (3) use of remote learning and school supports.

METHOD: Caregivers of children previously enrolled in the Study to Explore Early Development, a case-control study of children with ASD implemented during 2017 to 2020, were recontacted during January-June 2021 to learn about services during March-December 2020. Children were classified as ASD, DD, or POP during the initial study and were aged 3.4 to 7.5 years when their caregivers were recontacted during the pandemic.

RESULTS: Over half of all children missed or delayed regular health/dental appointments (58.4%-65.2%). More children in the ASD versus DD and POP groups missed or delayed specialty services (75.7%, 58.3%, and 22.8%, respectively) and reported difficulties obtaining care of any type because of issues using telehealth and difficulty wearing a mask. During school closures, a smaller proportion of children with ASD versus another DD were offered live online classes (84.3% vs 91.1%), while a larger proportion had disrupted individualized education programs (50.0% vs 36.2%).

CONCLUSION: Minimizing service disruptions for all children and ensuring continuity of specialty care for children with ASD is essential for future public health emergencies. Children may need additional services to compensate for disruptions during the pandemic.

Journal Title

Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP





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MeSH Keywords

Child; Humans; Child, Preschool; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Developmental Disabilities; Pandemics; Case-Control Studies; Emergencies; COVID-19


Autism Spectrum Disorder; Developmental Disabilities; Pandemics; Case-Control Studies; Emergencies; COVID-19


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Written work prepared employees of the Federal Government as part of their official duties is, under the U.S. Copyright Act, a “work of the United States Government” for which copyright protection under Title 17 of the United States Code is not available. As such, copyright does not extend to the contributions of employees of the Federal Government.

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