Disrupted Access to Therapies and Impact on Well-Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic for Children with Motor Impairment and Their Caregivers

Ellen N. Sutter*, Linda Smith Francis, Sunday M. Francis, Daniel H. Lench, Samuel T. Nemanich, Linda E. Krach, Theresa Sukal-Moulton, Bernadette T. Gillick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives The aim of this study was to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to rehabilitation therapies and the impact of changes in therapy access on the physical and mental well-being of children with motor impairment and their caregivers. Design Caregivers of children younger than 18 yrs with childhood-onset motor impairment (primarily cerebral palsy) completed an anonymous survey through the online platform REDCap between May 5 and July 13, 2020. Results The survey was completed by 102 participants. Before the pandemic, 92 of 102 children (90%) were receiving one or more therapies; at the time surveyed, 55 children (54%) were receiving any therapies (P < 0.001). More than 40% of the sample reported increased child stress, decreased physical activity, and/or decline in mobility/movement. Participants who reported a decrease in number of therapies at the time surveyed more frequently reported lower satisfaction with treatment delivery (P < 0.001), a decline in child's mobility (P = 0.001), and increased caregiver stress (P = 0.004). Five qualitative themes were identified from open-ended question responses related to therapies and well-being. Conclusions Access to pediatric rehabilitation therapies was disrupted during COVID-19. Disrupted access may be related to impact on physical and mental health. With the expansion of telehealth, caregiver and child feedback should be incorporated to optimize benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-830
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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