COVID-19-Related Facilitators and Barriers to In-Person Learning for Children With Intellectual and Development Disabilities

for the COMPASS-T Study Group, Liz E. Vestal, Ann M. Schmidt, Nikole L. Dougherty, Michael R. Sherby, Jason G. Newland, Nancy B. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Schools provide essential functions for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), but their vulnerability to infection with SARS-CoV-2 are a barrier to in-person learning. This qualitative study aimed to understand how weekly SARS-CoV-2 screening testing of students and staff could best facilitate in-school learning during the pandemic. METHODS: Thirty-one focus groups were held with school staff and parents of children with IDD to examine the perceptions of COVID-19 during the 2020-2021 school year. Responses were analyzed using a directed thematic content analysis approach. RESULTS: Five principal themes were identified: risks of returning to in-person learning; facilitators and barriers to participation in SARS-CoV-2 screening testing; messaging strategies; and preferred messengers. IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL HEALTH POLICY, PRACTICE, AND EQUITY: Staff and families agreed that saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 screening testing helps increase comfort with in-person learning. Screening testing increased family and school staff comfort with in-person learning particularly because many students with special needs cannot adhere to public health guidelines. CONCLUSION: To keep children with IDD in school during the pandemic, families found SARS-CoV-2 screening testing important, particularly for students that cannot adhere to mitigation guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 school testing
  • SARS-CoV-2 testing
  • children with IDD
  • intellectual and developmental disabilities


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