For Many Kids With Autism, Health Care Needs Go Unaddressed
Children with autism are twice as likely as those with other disabilities to have unmet health care needs, according to a new report.
Nearly 1 in 5 kids on the spectrum have gone without a needed medical or mental health service. By comparison, fewer than 10 percent of children with other types of disabilities and just 2.6 percent of those who are typically developing have missed out on such services.
The findings come from a study published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
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Researchers from Autism Speaks looked at data collected through the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, a government survey of parents of more than 50,000 children across the country.
Parents were asked if there was any time within the previous year when their child needed health care — including medical, dental, vision and mental health services — when they did not receive it. If so, the survey asked parents why.
Ultimately, among moms and dads of children with autism, 18.8 percent reported that their son or daughter had forgone needed health care. The reasons included lack of quality insurance, problems accessing family-centered care and family challenges like financial hardship, unemployment and divorce, among other issues.
The high number of children with autism missing out on needed services is particularly acute, the study authors said, since 93 percent of those with ASD had at least one co-occurring medical condition like gastrointestinal issues, sleep problems or depression compared to just 63 percent of children with other disabilities.
“These findings make clear that the unmet health care needs faced by children with autism are substantially related to factors best addressed through policies and programs that strengthen the ability of families to care for their children,” said Arun Karpur, director for data science and evaluation research at Autism Speaks and lead author of the study. “Programs supporting children with autism and their families need to integrate social supports across a broad range of needs including education, workforce development, health care and other welfare programs.”