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.”
A new study is adding to evidence that prenatal exposure to pesticides may significantly increase a child’s risk of autism.
Children born to mothers who lived within a mile of fields and farms where certain chemical pesticides were applied during pregnancy were at a two-thirds higher risk of autism or developmental delay, researchers found.
The risk was greatest during the second and third trimesters, according to findings publishedonline Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
For the study, researchers looked at more than 1,000 children in California whose mothers responded to questions about where they lived just before and during pregnancy. The addresses were cross-checked with detailed state records on agricultural chemical applications which included information on what types of chemicals were used, where, when and in what quantity.
“What we saw were several classes of pesticides more commonly applied near residences of mothers whose children developed autism or had delayed cognitive or other skills,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto of the University of California, Davis MIND Institute who worked on the study.
One-third of the mothers lived within a mile of a chemical application site during the time studied, researchers said. In some cases, a mother’s proximity to a chemical spray directly correlated to greater or weaker odds of autism.
Kids born to mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have autism, the study found. Pyrethroids were also associated with an increased risk of autism, especially when the exposure occurred late in pregnancy, and carbamates were linked to developmental delay.
Researchers said the findings highlight the importance of reducing chemical exposure as much as possible around expectant mothers and young children, though they said other factors are also at play when it comes to autism and developmental delay.
The parents of a 3-year-old are suing in federal court after they say their son’s preschool acceptance was rescinded when school officials learned of his autism diagnosis.
Jennifer Sample and Eliot Ferguson say their son won a coveted spot at the private Washington Market School in New York City. But as soon as the couple informed preschool administrators that the boy identified in court papers as O.F. was recently diagnosed with autism, the offer of admission was retracted, they allege.
Sample and Ferguson are now suing the Manhattan school and two administrators charging that the actions are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The couple say their son was turned away without even being evaluated by the school.
In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in New York this week, Sample and Ferguson said they saw several children at the Washington Market preschool with special needs during their tour including one with a classroom aide. The school also hosted a talk by noted self-advocate Temple Grandin, the family said. They allege that school officials said their son would not be able to attend because, unlike other students, he already had an “official” diagnosis.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Washington Market to exploit someone of the stature of Dr. Temple Grandin to create the appearance of being autism-friendly when, in actuality, Washington Market could not wait to discriminate against our son on the basis of his ‘official’ diagnosis,” Jennifer Sample said in a statement. “It is offensive to me as a parent that in order to maintain our son’s acceptance, I would have had to hide our son’s diagnosis because of Washington Market’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. No parent should ever be punished for telling the truth.”
The family is seeking mandatory training for staff and administrators at Washington Market and is also asking that a federal monitor be appointed to ensure the school complies with the ADA in its admissions process.
In a statement to Disability Scoop, the Washington Market School indicated it is reviewing the complaint.
“The education and well-being of all students and the commitment we make to our community is central to our mission. As such we are saddened by the baseless allegations made in this lawsuit,” the statement said.
A federal judge signed off this week on a settlement that formally ends the Philadelphia School District’s policy of transferring elementary students with autism from school to school with no warning to their families.
The settlement came as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed three years ago by parents frustrated by the policy, known by families as “the autism shuffle.” The parents, who all had second graders, were represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
The terms of the settlement require the district to notify parents by January if their child could be transferred to a new school that fall. Officials would have to disclose the new school, if known, and inform parents of their right to meet formally with school officials about the transition.
Teachers will also be notified that their students could be transferred.
The district will also have to produce official transfer letters by June and publish lists of all of its so-called autistic-support classrooms. Such lists were not made public in the past.
Sharon Romero’s son Joshua, now 11, was among the named plaintiffs.
Earlier this week, Romero told U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis that she was “extremely happy” with the settlement.
“It’s not only my child, but so many children who are going to benefit,” Romero said.
Before the lawsuit was filed, Romero said, she did not know how to explain to Joshua that change might happen at any time. Transitions are especially difficult for people with autism.
“I felt terrible for my child,” she said. “I didn’t know where he would go, or what to do, or who to talk to.”
Davis commended both sides, saying the settlement was a “well-crafted and fair compromise” that gives families and schools the opportunity to plan for transitions.
The district, which has as many as 3,000 students with autism, had maintained the policy was necessary. Some of its schools are ill-equipped to educate children with autism at every grade level. Some schools, for example, have autistic-support classes for lower grades but not higher grades.
The settlement, which Davis said he would sign by the end of Thursday, carries broad implications. The transfer policy now affects all students on the spectrum. Autism diagnoses are on the rise nationwide.
District parent Cathy Roccia-Meier said that the old policy was devastating to children, who “felt abandoned as they moved from school to school.”
She is thrilled by the new policy, Roccia-Meier said.
“I think,” Roccia-Meier said, “this will make a big change.”
Parents of children with autism are more likely to exhibit traits of the developmental disorder themselves, new research suggests.
In a study looking at data on moms and dads of 256 children with autism and nearly 1,400 without, researchers found that parents of those on the spectrum tended to score higher on a questionnaire known as the Social Responsiveness Scale.
“When there was a child with autism in the family, both parents more often scored in the top 20 percent of the adult population on a survey we use to measure the presence of autistic traits,” said John Constantino of Washington University who worked on the study published online this month in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Constantino was quick to emphasize that a higher score on the assessment is not necessarily a bad thing. More than likely, the traits parents display in small doses may be exaggerated in their children.
“It could be that a mother or a father is just a little bit repetitive or slightly overfocused on details,” he said. “The problem comes when those traits are so intense that they begin to impair a person’s ability to function.”
In cases where both parents had mildly elevated scores on the survey, researchers found that they were 85 percent more likely to have a child with autism. If just one parent scored high, there was a 53 percent increased chance of the developmental disorder occurring in their son or daughter.
Previous research has found that siblings of those with autism often have more autistic traits, but this study is believed to be the first to find as much in parents.