New studies are providing more current cost estimates. "What we found was shocking," Mandell said. "This is a huge hit on families."
The costs to care for a child with special needs is on the rise, as reported in a new study in the medical journal JAMA Pediatric. The study found that the total lifetime cost of supporting an individual with an ASD is $1.4 million in the U.S.-with an added intellectual disability, the total rises to $2.4 million. Reuters recently reported on this study and its findings in an article titled "Raising an Autistic Child: Coping With the Costs."
These costs typically include an ongoing mix of special education programs, medical care, and lost wages as many parents of autistic children reduce their work hours or even quit their jobs to help their child full-time. The organization Autism Speaks estimates that it now takes roughly $60,000 annually to support someone with an ASD. Such costs can be so prohibitive that many affected families will move to states that offer a better collection of services.
The original article advises parents not to automatically think they must drop out of the workforce to manage their child's case full-time. It is the natural human instinct to want to do so. No one knows a child and his or her needs like a parent, and navigating the morass of city, state and federal services can be a full-time job. However, if a parent drops out of the workforce, just as out-of-pocket expenses start to mount up, it can become very challenging financially.
The article urges families to take a long-term view of caregiving. In some situations it might be more advantageous for mom to stay in the workforce, and then hire additional support to provide case-management services. An attorney well-versed in special needs issues can be an indispensable aid in this area.