Study: Supporting a Person With Autism Is Costly

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 06/10/2014 | 10:30 AM EDT

Data finds that financial costs can exceed $2 million

A new study finds that caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder can be rather costly, not just for the individual and families, but for society as a whole.

 

The study, which was funded by non-profit Autism Speaks, found that lifetime cost for someone with autism can be as high as $2.4 million. The authors of the study write that the financial toll is "much higher than previously suggested," and includes direct medical, educational and residential costs, as well as indirect costs such as lost wages.


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Researchers say the financial burden for people with autism and intellectual disability is significantly higher than those with no intellectual disability, which is around $1.4 million. According to estimates cited in the report, between 40 and 60 percent of people with autism spectrum disorders also have an intellectual disability, characterized by limitations in intellectual function and adaptive behaviors, including social and practical skills.


On average, the cost for children with autism and an intellectual disability in the U.S. was more than $107,800 per year up to age 5, and roughly $85,600 per year between ages 6 and 17. Among children with no diagnosed intellectual disabilities, the associated costs were lower with approximately $63,290 per year for those 5 and under, and $52,205 per year for those between 6 and 17.


The top average annual cost was special education, followed by parents' productivity losses and medical expenses, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency, home health care, pharmacy and out-of-pocket costs.


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Among adults with autism in the U.S., the top average annual cost was for accommodations (many adults with autism benefit from living in some form of supported housing), followed by medical expenses and lost productivity. Average costs for adults with intellectual disabilities were more than $88,000 per year. For those without such disabilities, average costs were roughly $50,300 per year.

(Photo: Courtesy of Autism Awareness)

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