A recent report in the journal Pediatrics published in April 2012
documents the significant economic burden families of children with autism
spectrum disorders (ASDs) face. The statistics do have some limitations but the
findings support what parents and professionals have been saying for a long
time. The care of children with ASDs is not only demanding but also expensive.
Time, money and resources are spent on medical and educational therapies. The
cost of these services is demanding both for the community and the family. The
recent rise in the prevalence statistics to 1 in 110 children in the United
States have and ASD has increased the awareness of this disorder and the overall
cost of caring for a child with an ASD. The need for parents of a child with an
ASD to wear many hats in terms of caregiving is a compounding issue. Parents
must be a caregiver, case manager, therapist, behavior specialist, advocate,
transporter and an educator. These jobs never end.
In the past health care costs were the focus for children with an ASD. The focus today is now shifting to the overall costs to the community and to the family. Specifically,
the burden to the family in terms of economic costs is now being identified.
Children with an ASD require intensive specialized services. These services may
not be covered by traditional insurance and must be obtained at certain times
and in certain locations. These requirements often hinder a parent’s ability to
maintain paid or full time employment. This has direct family effects and
secondary workforce participation effects. Parents of children with an ASD are
less likely to be employed or work full time due to their care taking obligations and the scarcity of appropriate community based resources to help them deal with the emotional and behavioral issues that children with an ASD frequently have. Balancing of work with their child’s needs is difficult and often impossible. The result is a reduction in work hours or unemployment. This cost is in additional to the direct service costs.
The mother is generally the the primary caregiver for a child with an ASD and consequently her labor market impact is the greatest. Mothers are less likely to work, work fewer hours per week, and earn substantially less than mothers of children with no
health limitations. Mothers of children with no health problems work an average
of 7 hours more per week than mothers of children with an ASD. There was no
significant difference for fathers. On average families of children with no health limitation work an average of 5 hours more per week. Mothers of children with ASDs earned almost $6,000 less per year than mothers of children with no health limitation and families with no health limitation earned over $17,000 per year more than families with a child with an ASD.
In summary mothers of children with an ASD earned 56% less than mothers of a child with no health limitation. They are 6% less likely to be employed and work an average of 7 hours less per week than mothers of children with no health limitation. Children
with ASDs are 9% less likely to have both parents working and family earnings are 28% less then those of children with no health limitation.