Stuck Inside: Impact of COVID-19 Countermeasures on Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Role of Recreation Therapy Interventions—Call to Action




loneliness, COVID-19, recreational therapy, intellectual and developmental disabilities, Social Support, telehealth


The COVID-19 pandemic is having an immense worldwide impact on everyday activities, including social contact, especially for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Individuals with IDD are challenged because of their preexisting vulnerability to issues associated with loneliness that may increase with COVID-19 countermeasures. The purpose of this paper is to (1) briefl y review COVID-19 eff ects on loneliness of individuals with IDD, (2) identify promising in-person and telehealth RT interventions, and (3) suggest the need for recreational therapy evidence-based research and discussion to address COVID-19 consequences experienced by individuals with IDD.

Author Biographies

Ivanka Simić Stanojević, MS, Ph.D. Student Department of Health & Wellness Design School of Public Health Indiana University-Bloomington

Ivanka Simic Stanojevic is a Ph.D. student at Indiana University’s School of Public Health with a major in Leisure Behavior. Ms. Simic Stanojevic holds a master’s degree in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Belgrade, Serbia and she is dedicated to exploring and establishing evidence-based practices that improve mental health and overall well-being for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Her line of research is focusing on the sexual wellness of women with disabilities. Her other research interests include female sexual behavior observed through the lens of philosophy of leisure, LGBTQ+ inclusive education, evidence-based interventions that focus on sexual health education and self-advocacy practices for persons with IDD, as well as exploring the most effective treatment modalities nested within the field of recreational therapy that could provide positive treatment outcomes for the aforementioned populations.

Jonathan Gerth, M.ed Student Department of Psychology and Human Development Peabody College Vanderbilt University

Jonathan Gerth is an M.ed. student in Vanderbilt’s Child Studies program and guest student in Indiana University’s Master’s Recreation Therapy program. He is focused on researching and exploring evidence-based interventions in a therapeutic recreation camp setting for individuals with disabilities.

Jennifer Piatt, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, Associate Professor Department of Health & Wellness Design School of Public Health Indiana University-Bloomington

My current research focus is sexual health and women living with disabilities. My work focuses on addressing clinical outcomes for adults and children with disabling conditions within community-based rehabilitation. I use research in recreational therapy (RT) as a public health initiative to better understand how different interventions can address secondary health conditions, improve health outcomes, and decrease health care costs. My research is grounded in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). As a bio-psycho-social model, the ICF provides a conceptual framework that examines health within a variety of contexts, including personal and environmental factors, body functions and structure, as well as activity and participation. Utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methods, I examine how human behavior impacts participation. My overarching goal is to better understand what type of public health initiatives within the realm of RT have a positive impact on health outcomes among adults and children with disabling conditions within community-based rehabilitation settings.