Adding up costs for lifetime of autism care

New research puts a lifetime price tag on having this disorder: $2.4 million. That’s how much it costs to care for a person with autism who also has an intellectual disability.

One in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism varies greatly in its severity, but can affect an individual’s ability to interact socially, learn, speak, and work.

New research puts a lifetime price tag on having this disorder: $2.4 million. That’s how much it costs to care for a person with autism who also has an intellectual disability.

University of Pennsylvania researchers found that when no intellectual disability is involved, the lifetime cost is $1.4 million.

Adding up and analyzing any and all costs associated with caring for people with autism, researchers found special education services drive costs the most. Lost parental wages are another major factor because parents stay home to care for their kids.

David Mandell heads the University of Pennsylvania Center for Mental Health Policy and Services research, and led this study.

He says putting a price tag on care could lead to new approaches in treatment and care. “It means that we get under the hood of what causes these costs, and that we begin to think about how we come up with policies that provide more effective and efficient services for individuals with autism and their families.” he said.

For example, work places could be more supportive of employees who have children with autism, Mandell said. And employment opportunities for individuals who have the disorder are also important, he said.

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