The impact of digital physical therapy during COVID-19 lockdown in children with developmental disorders: a qualitative study
Background: Digital physical therapy was performed within early intervention sessions for children with developmental disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no known qualitative study that addresses the perspectives of parents with digital practice for early intervention. Objective: To describe the parents’ experiences with digital physical therapy for early intervention in children during COVID-19 lockdown. Methods: A qualitative phenomenological study. Purposive sampling was conducted, including 16 parents of the children participating in the early intervention program. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and researchers’ field notes. An inductive analysis was performed. Results: Four themes emerged: a) ambivalent experiences about digital physical therapy: telehealth can be a good solution in times of COVID-19, however, it was also perceived as difficult and insufficient; b) barriers encountered for its implementation: describing factors related to physical aspects, training, and time, and difficulties maintaining the child’s attention; c) perceived facilitators during its use: based on digital accessibility, availability, and adaptability of the therapist and the rest of the family; d) future possibilities of digital physical therapy: suggested uses for after the lockdown, such as a complement that facilitates communication and as a follow-up with older children. Conclusions: Our findings help shed light on the possible benefits of digital physical therapy in children with developmental disorders, considering the perspectives of families. However, there are several difficulties to be overcome to successfully implement this type of therapy and optimize its future possibilities.
The authors thank all the families and children who have made this study possible, sharing their experiences related to digital physical therapy during a difficult and unexpected experience, such as the COVID-19 lockdown.
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