A little money spent on temporary relief for caregivers goes a long way toward keeping kids and young adults with autism out of psychiatric hospitals, a new study suggests.
For every $1,000 states spent on respite services in the previous 60 days, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found an 8 percent drop in the odds of hospitalization.
Meanwhile, the level of therapeutic services — including speech, occupational, behavioral and other therapies — provided to an individual with autism did not impact the likelihood that they would end up in a psychiatric hospital.
The findings, published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, come from a study of records for over 28,000 kids with autism ages 5 to 21 who were enrolled in Medicaid in 2004.
During the research period, 675 of the children spent time at a psychiatric hospital for issues related to their autism diagnosis.
“Raising a child with ASD is fraught with challenges and can place considerable stress on families. In many cases, hospitalization may result as much from the stress the child’s behavior places on the family as from the behavior,” wrote David Mandell of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues in the study.
Identifying ways to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations among those with autism is important, the authors indicate, because previous research has found that those with the disorder are far more likely to be hospitalized than their peers with other psychiatric or developmental conditions.
Currently, respite care is not offered to Medicaid recipients in every state, something that the study authors say ought to be reconsidered given the positive results shown in their research.
Mandell and his colleagues said they found it “puzzling” that therapeutic services did not also mitigate the odds of hospitalization.
“The lack of association between therapeutic services and hospitalization raises concerns regarding the effectiveness of these services,” they wrote.