The Cost of Autism to Families and Society

Child with autismAccording to a new government survey, one in 45 children has an autism spectrum disorder, making it one of the most rapidly rising disabilities. Over a lifetime, families of autistic children will pay millions for their care.

Half of the children affected also have an intellectual disability, and many have complex medical health needs and require round-the-clock care. For their parents, this may mean one of them giving up their career to be a full-time carer – and the pay cut that involves – all the while having higher medical and occupational therapy bills. The cost of raising an autistic child was estimated to be up to $2.4 million in a recent study by Autism Speaks, a figure well above the means of most families.

Help for Autistic Children

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available for children with autism who have communication difficulties or challenges with their daily tasks. An individual that is eligible for SSI disability benefits can receive up to $750 a month to pay towards their medical bills, assistive equipment, speech therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy or specialist food.

Is My Child Covered by the Marketplace?

Social Security for a child under 18 could help cover disability treatments not covered by insurance, such as bio-medical treatments, gastrointestinal treatment or a gluten-free diet. Lots of children with autism have co-existing gastrointestinal problems and food sensitivities that seem to improve with a gluten-free diet and good gastroenterological care. As this is considered experimental, it may not be covered by insurance.

Obamacare requires ten essential benefits to be included in marketplace insurance and should include ‘behavioral health treatment’ and ‘rehabilitative services’, but some states have not mentioned autism specifically and so do not cover it. SSI payments can give access to services for children that need them.

Autism has a large financial impact on families as they struggle to provide medical and social care for their children. Disability benefits can open up more treatment options and could ease the strain.