When families make a decision to have children or not, finances often weigh heavy in their decision. They consider things like if one parent can afford to stay home or not, how many years of daycare they may need, and plenty of other financial factors. What many fail to add into the equation, however, is what if that child has autism.
According to recent study, families of children with autism are hit not only emotionally when their child is diagnosed, but they take significant financial blows as well. A new report says families with autistic children earn $18,000 less than those whose children don't. That's a lot of money, and it's primarily due to the mother not being able to work as much or at all.
The study showed those with autistic children were 6 percent less likely to be employed, worked seven hours less per week, and they had less than half the annual income than those whose children had no disability. David Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told Reuters Health, "Mothers are leaving the workforce to cobble this care together for their kids."
It's such a sad statement about the care options available to families facing autism, and it's frightening because the cost of raising a child with autism can be so high. While most of us look forward to the day we pay for what we can of our kids' college, then let them fend for themselves, many parents of children with autism are faced with supporting their children for life. Some estimates say their extra care may cost $3.2 million over a lifetime. I'm sure parents of children with many disabilities face similar challenges.
It's a clear sign that something more has to be done to help families who are sacrificing so much to do what's best for the children they love. We have to find ways to help them and let them help themselves by working, if that's what they choose.
It's not that surprising I guess given the struggles I've heard from friends and others who are trying to navigate services for their autistic children, it's just jolting to see how large the impact of autism is financially ... in addition to the many other ways their lives are forever changed by it.
Are you surprised that families raising children with autism are financially impacted this significantly? If you have a child with autism, how has your work situation been affected?
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