Raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a challenge in the best of circumstances. ASD is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder which can result in impaired social and communication abilities. It also often comes with a pattern of repetitive activities, behavior, or interests. ASD is currently considered the fastest growing developmental disability in the US according to the Autism Society, and it is estimated to affect one out of every 68 children.
Not only does an ASD child take an emotional toll on a family, but it can also take a huge financial toll. How much? Well over $1 million in the best case scenario, and as much is $2.4 million with children who have autism and combined with other associated disabilities according to a comprehensive analysis by USA and UK scientists in regard to the different costs which come from raising a child who has autism. These figures are much higher than previously thought, but also take into consideration the lifetime cost associated with the disorder since many who have ASD can never live fully on their own. The authors submitted an editorial on their findings and thoughts which was published online at JAMA Pediatrics.
The bulk of the costs (79%) accumulate from a variety of services which directly help the child. This includes such things as home healthcare, medical care, special education, and after school care which would be expected. What surprised the researchers was the amount of money the family ended up spending on indirect costs to help the child.
For example, 9% of the figures were attributed to the loss of wages and other parental income by family members who leave the workforce to become a caregiver to the child with autism. David Mandell, the senior author of the research, notes that it’s the indirect costs and consequences which aren’t discussed thoroughly enough when it comes to families with this disabilities.
As Mandell expressed, “One of the largest costs in childhood was lost parental earnings. We think this happens because parents have to drop out of the workforce to care for their children. They give up their jobs because of the struggle of advocating for and managing their child’s care becomes a full-time job. If we had more comprehensive, family friendly care in place, families wouldn’t be faced with this drop in income right when they’re incurring many more expenses.”
Even if you don’t have a family member with ASD, there is an important monetary revelation which you can take away from this study, and it can help you in a lot of ways with your own personal finances. When it comes to the actual cost of many things you buy, activities you do, or responsibilities you take on, the cost often goes beyond the amount of money you end up directly paying for it. Almost everything has hidden costs, and these hidden costs can be quite expensive if you don’t acknowledge they are part of what you’re spending.
(Photo courtesy of Allen Sheffield)