News Release

Children with chronic health conditions, and those with special education needs, should receive more help with online learning

Pediatric clinicians play key role in ensuring access to critical resources, a Kennedy Krieger researcher writes in JAMA Pediatrics

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Kennedy Krieger Institute

BALTIMORE, January 4, 2022—Online learning poses additional challenges to children with chronic medical conditions or special education needs, and these patients could benefit from more support from pediatric clinicians to be academically successful, according to a new opinion piece in JAMA Pediatrics released today and co-written by researchers at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Clinicians should address school-related challenges or issues like any other medical need in pediatric care, said Lisa Jacobson, PhD, NCSP, ABPP, co-director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education (CILSE) and director of research for the Institute’s department of neuropsychology.

This includes gathering a child’s full health history and details of school performance, as well as noting any signs of school challenges the patient faces. Clinicians can reach out to neuropsychology teams, educators or social workers to help their patients with chronic illnesses keep up academically with their peers.

These recommendations are based on research with pediatric oncology patients, who suffered unique obstacles with online learning in the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, more than half, or 57 percent, of parents of children with cancer reported difficulties with learning online during this time.

Prior to the pandemic, parents of children with cancer also reported challenges to securing special education services because of several factors, including a lack of familiarity with available resources as well as ways to secure them. But these challenges are not unique to pediatric cancer patients; children with other chronic conditions, including long COVID, or special education needs face the same obstacles, Dr. Jacobson said.

However, these same families often have regular interactions with pediatric specialists throughout their child’s treatment or care. By increasing the awareness of the positive role that pediatric specialists can play in their patients’ education, these clinicians could provide assistance on school-related issues, she said, adding that not doing so could contribute to lifelong negative health impacts.

About Kennedy Krieger Institute:

Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally known nonprofit organization located in the greater Baltimore-Washington, D.C., region, transforms the lives of more than 25,000 individuals a year through inpatient and outpatient medical, behavioral health and wellness therapies; home and community services; school-based programs; training and education for professionals; and advocacy. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children, adolescents and adults with diseases, disorders and injuries that impact the nervous system, ranging from mild to severe. The Institute is home to a team of investigators who contribute to the understanding of how disorders develop, while at the same time pioneering new interventions and methods of early diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Visit for more information about Kennedy Krieger.       



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