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Autism Costs May Top $2 Million Per Person


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As the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to rise, researchers say that the lifetime cost of caring for each person with the developmental disorder ranges from $1.4 to $2.4 million. (iStock)

As the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to rise, researchers say that the lifetime cost of caring for each person with the developmental disorder ranges from $1.4 to $2.4 million. (iStock)

The lifetime cost of caring for just one individual with autism can be as high as $2.4 million, researchers say.

Expenses range from $1.4 million for individuals with autism alone to $2.4 million for those on the spectrum who also have intellectual disability, according to findings published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics analyzed previous research on people with autism and their families to assess the overall costs and economic impact of autism.

The resulting estimates include everything from the price of medical treatments to costs related to schooling and employment supports. The figures also factor in lost wages for individuals with autism — who often struggle to find work as adults — as well as their caregivers.

Spending on special education, housing during adulthood and indirect costs like lost productivity were the biggest contributors to the million-dollar price tag, the study found.

Researchers said the findings highlight the need for interventions specifically geared toward helping adults with autism and approaches early in life that may lessen the need for long-term care.

“These numbers provide important information that can help policymakers and advocacy organizations make decisions about how to allocate resources to best serve this population,” said David Mandell of the University of Pennsylvania, the study’s senior author, adding that it’s “imperative that we examine how high-quality intervention can reduce burden on families.”

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Comments (14 Responses)

  1. Fiseha says:

    The research is correct and how much the burden of taking care to autistic child known by the family only.

  2. autismepi says:

    This study should be setting off alarm bells everywhere! We need to figure out what is happening to our children!!! At current rates of increase, by 2025, the numbers could be one out of two children! This will bankrupt us!!! Push for research!!! We now know that that ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS are a large part of the puzzle and these have barely been investigated!! If you don’t believe this is a crisis, talk to any educator, in any school district, and ask them about the impact on every child’s education.

  3. Dadvocate says:

    I’m looking forward to reading the entire report soon. This kind of credible, empirical data is essential for legislators and policy makers to know and understand so that public policy solutions get designed right and get the concrete results people need. Kudos to Autism Speaks for funding the grant application.

    I hope the authors didn’t forget things like the indirect cost of foregone growth in retirement and other savings. These get crushed by excess spending in the early years. No current savings = no long term savings growth. It’s the negative impact that keeps on giving and only gets recognized many years down the road.

  4. Dan says:

    So far, I have seen very little increase in spending on early intervention, and yet according to Temple Grandin, getting them before 2 years of age is extremely crucial. And all the research shows how the brain has reached 80% of it’s growth by the time a child turns 2 years of age.

  5. Eva Feder Kittay says:

    Why don’t people estimate how many jobs are created in caring for people with autism and intellectual disabilities, and how many jobs are created by attending to their education, training, etc.? Why is it always only the red side of the ledger that gets reported?

  6. Teresa Barnhart says:

    I would guess that the costs are similar for those with mental illness. Autism is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, but please remember that other disabilities have an impact that is just as severe. It won’t solve all the problems to only address those with Autism.

  7. Whitney says:

    Providing services first is a less burden to families and people with autism than providing the pipe dream of cure. We do not enough about the human genome to find the cure. Put the horse before the cart.

  8. WHitney says:

    Like providing job training services. That will reduce the burden on families.

  9. Barb says:

    Maybe finally somebody will wake up to the plight of adults with Autism and the supports they, and their families, need. I am living with an adult with Autism and an intellectual disability who is too old for school and there are no programs that he can go to that meet his needs. So, he stays at home with us. New York State has cut funding for individuals living at home, has closed admittance to group homes, and is closing sheltered workshops. this is all because they overspent on the individuals the state cares for in group homes/institutions and they have to pay back the federal government millions of dollars. This family would love a piece of the funding pie to give our son with autism a meaningful day program and some assistance at home.

  10. frank Tetto says:

    The Disability Scoop on the cost of care per person for an individual on the autism spectrum of 2 million per lifetime care I believe will prove to be too low by a factor of five plus.

    I prepared a lifetime plan for My daughter Maria years ago. her diagnosis is traumatic brain injury. Maria requires 24 care and supervision. The cost of her basic needs, medical interventions and drugs to prevent regression and seizures is expected to exceed 20 to 25 million during her life.

    These are conservative figures based on Maria living a normal lifespan.

    To believe the cost of autism care over an individual’s lifetime is projected at 2 million per person is to say the average per person cost per year, (utilizing a 75 year lifespan} is going to be less than 27,000 per year, in today’s dollars. Utilzing a conservative inflation rate of 3% per year the cost of care will triple over a lifetime. A two million cost per care per individual with autism I believe is an estimate which will prove to be far too low. It risks not only impeding research to prevent and ameliorate the condition. It risks society at large and government at all levels not providing sufficient supports to individuals on the autistum spectrum and their families.

  11. Whitney says:

    Theresa, I would advocate putting services in not just for Autism but for all intellectual disabilities. What is the point of providing services that can benefit others. Also we do have multi-purpose centers here but they are more geared towards intellectual disabilities and not autism.

    I may not like Autism Speaks but I agree with the purpose of the study. It is one of the better studies and grant where money is well spent. Now I wish Disability Scoop gives us links to the whole study instead of the Abstract.

  12. Margaret says:

    That’s funny, a few years ago we were using $3.2 million to care for someone with autism over the course of his or her lifetime. It’s amazing how the price of autism has gone down while the numbers have gone up. Perhaps we can expect a discount.

  13. Mario says:

    The big question I have here is; what did they consider the cut off age for life?

    I’d be quite interested to crunch the numbers and see how much it’ll be on average per year, per month or even per day…

  14. Rebecca says:

    Not all autistic adults remain dependent on their families. Many have jobs and are self sufficient. Many are raising families of their own.

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