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Autism Care Costs more than One Million per Patient

Update Date: Jun 10, 2014 10:00 AM EDT

Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterized by a lack of communication and social skills. The condition is typically diagnosed at the age of three and behavioral therapy can last for years. In a new study, researchers set out to calculate how much autistic care costs and found that the costs can range anywhere from $1.4 million to $2.4 million.

"When we think about what is needed to support people with autism, we so often look to medical care for that support," said study senior author David Mandell, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. "I think this [study] shows there are other places we need to look as well."

For this study, Mandell and his colleagues examined multiple factors that contribute to the costs of caring for one child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These factors include medical costs, lost wages, residential care and special education. The team calculated that the costs of caring for an autistic patient without intellectual disabilities averaged around $1.4 million. The costs increased to around $2.4 million for autistic patients with intellectual disabilities. In the United Kingdom, the costs were around $2.2 million.

The costs were broken down into multiple sections. The team calculated that the care of treatment for children with autism ranges from $6,467 and $18,106 per year depending on the patient's age and intellectually ability. Care for adults with autism costs around $13,580 to $27,159. The team also looked at the annual costs for special education and the wages lost and found that the expenses were $13,980 to $62,920 and $18,720 per year respectively.

"This study shows us what we've all known but never had the data to support -- that autism is alarmingly expensive," said Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health for Autism Speaks, the nonprofit advocacy group that funded the research, reported by WebMD.

The study, "Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States," was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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