Therapy access among children with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder: a population-based study

Teal W. Benevides, Henry J. Carretta, Carole K. Ivey, Shelly J. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Aim: This study examined cross-sectional population-based rates in reported need and unmet need for occupational, physical, and speech therapy services in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with children with attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cerebral palsy (CP). Method: The 2005–2006 and 2009–2010 (USA) National Survey of Children with Special Health Care data sets were used to compare therapy need and unmet need among children younger than 18 years with ASD (n=5178), ADHD (n=20 566), and CP (n=1183). Bivariate approaches and multivariate logistic regression using imputed data were used to identify associations between child and family characteristics, and access to therapy services. Results: After adjusting for other variables, children with ASD had a significantly greater likelihood of having an unmet therapy need compared with children with ADHD (odds ratio [OR] 1.66, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36–2.03), but a similar unmet need as children with CP (OR 1.30, 95% CI 0.97–1.74). Factors associated with unmet need included survey year, younger child age, no health insurance, and increased functional and behavioral difficulties. Interpretation: Children in our sample had greater unmet therapy needs in 2009 than in 2005. Caregiver-reported reasons for unmet need included cost and school resources. Research examining future trends in therapy access are warranted for children with ASD and CP. What this paper adds: Children with complex diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy had reported unmet need for therapy services. High costs of therapy were the primary reported reason contributing to reduced access among children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1298
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology

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