The financial burden of caring for a child with autism was underscored last week in a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The average lifetime cost of supporting someone with autism in the United States is $1.4 million, the study found. For those with autism and an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, the expense rises to $2.4 million.
"The cost is just a number, but it's a big number," said David Mandell, the study's principal investigator and director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mandell's study maintains it is the most comprehensive assessment of costs to date. Estimates from the last 10 years were lower but far less accurate, Mandell said, but he and his colleagues had to use them as a basis.
"There aren't data to capture all these costs. We were left extrapolating from a small number of studies that exist," he said.
Kristina Rhodes of Boyertown may have to reduce her work hours as a therapist because her autistic son, Erik, 10, while academically advanced for his age, isn’t thriving at school. “I basically lost income until he went to kindergarten,” she said. Mandell’s study maintains it is the most comprehensive assessment of costs to date.