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Kathy Marshack News

The High Cost of Special Education for Children with Autism

Monday, March 03, 2014


special education for children with autism spectrum disorderWhile more states are passing laws that mandate treatment of autism to be covered by insurance, there are more than medical costs associated with autism. One area of growing concern is the amount our school systems are shouldering in order to teach children with autism.

CNN Medical Supervising Producer, Caleb Hellerman recently wrote about the Harvard School of Public Health report that estimates conservatively that the dollar cost of an autism diagnosis is more than $17,000 a year through age 17. $8,610 of that amount is what the educational system is picking up annually.

Children with autism (ASD) require different forms of Special Ed services. Some need one-on-one attention from a teacher, others can be placed in a small group setting, while others can be fully integrated into a classroom.

In the year 2000, there were federal grants for special Ed totaling $5 billion. In the year 2005 it went up to $12 billion. Since then the amount has been dropping, as can be seen from the fact that in 2013 the Special Education Personnel Preparation program only received $84 million in federal funding.

Michael Ganz, Assistant Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, released the following information about the direct and indirect cost of Autism in 2006: “The Direct costs of Autism include direct medical costs, such as physician and outpatient services, prescription medication, and behavioral therapies (estimated to cost, on average, more than $29,000 per person per year) and direct non-medical costs, such as special education, camps, and child care (estimated to annually cost more than $38,000 for those with lower levels of disability and more than $43,000 for those with higher levels).

Indirect costs equal the value of lost productivity resulting from a person having autism, for example, the difference in potential income between someone with autism and someone without, and the value of lost productivity for an autistic person’s parents due to reduced work hours or not working altogether. The estimated annual indirect costs for autistic individuals and their parents range from more than $39,000 to nearly $130,000.”

The financial cost of autism is hard to pin down. Some say that autism costs a family $60,000 annually. Whatever the amount, it’s costing all of us not to do all we can to research, diagnose and treat this disorder. Early behavioral training can save society a great deal of money. And doesn’t every child deserve the best care we can give them? Many children who begin treatment before turning three improve to the point where they are able to thrive right alongside their fellow classmates.

Please join me on Twitter and share your thoughts as we continue the discussion on the cost of Autism to families, school districts, and taxpayers. Please use #autism and @KathyMarshack in your comments so I see them.


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