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Annual Care for Autism Costs an Average of $17,000 per Child

Update Date: Feb 10, 2014 02:37 PM EST

According to a new study conducted in the United States, caring for an autistic child costs an average of $17,000 per year. The researchers found that the majority of the costs are paid for by the school systems.

Lead researcher, Tara Lavelle from the RAND Corporation, which is a nonprofit research group, reported that when it came to medical expenses, autistic children averaged an additional $3,000 per year in comparison to children who did not have the developmental disorders. The medical costs consisted of doctor visits and prescriptions.

The researchers found that the bulk of the expenses, however, were in the "non-medical" realm. Based on their findings, the team reported that services catered to autistic children cost an average of $14,000 per year. Roughly 60 percent of the total cost was tied to special education. Other costs involved therapy sessions and childcare.

"The societal cost is enormous," said Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research and scientific review for Autism Speaks.

The researchers reported they shockingly found that parents with autistic children did not have higher out-of-pocket costs in comparison to parents who did not have autistic children. The team reasoned that the average out-of-pocket costs that parents spent on their children regardless of an autism diagnosis could be the same due to insurance reform. Insurance companies now cover more treatments for children with developmental conditions.

"This study could suggest that autism insurance reform is working," Rosanoff commented according to WebMD.

The researchers concluded their findings based on data collected from two national surveys. In one of them, parents were asked to provide information on non-medical services that their autistic children needed. The data involved 246 families who had children affected with autism spectrum disorders that ranged from mild to severe. The researchers also had information on 19,000 families that did not have any autistic children.

The findings were published in Pediatrics.

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