Schools picking up autism tab
February 11th, 2014
11:55 AM ET

Schools picking up autism tab

The surge in autism diagnoses since the year 2000 has come with a massive cost that’s shouldered largely by the public school system, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In what’s billed as a conservative estimate, they say the “economic burden” of an autism diagnosis is more than $17,000 a year through age 17, with medical costs making up less than 20% of the total. The biggest chunk of the tab, $8,610, is picked up by schools, according to their paper, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

“The education system is already under a lot of financial strain,” says Tara LaVelle, the lead author, who is now an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “We need policies at the federal, state and local level to make sure funds are available to provide appropriate intervention.”

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) jumped 78% between the year 2000 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although there is an ongoing debate over whether ASD is truly more common or if parents and physicians are simply more aware. The 2012 report, based on medical records, said approximately 1 in 88 children have the disorder. Last year, based on a survey of parents, the CDC said the figure may be even higher – as high as 1 in 50. Most experts believe the actual number is somewhere between the two.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide a “free and appropriate” education to children diagnosed with ASD, as well as those with other disabilities. The cost can be high, since many of the students require a one-on-one or small group setting.

In the study, 78% of children with ASD attended public school, compared with 62% of other children. Researchers found 76% of children with ASD use special education services, compared with 8% of the overall school population.

As autism diagnoses surged in the early 2000s, so did federal grants for special education – from $5 billion in 2000 to $12 billion just five years later. More recently, the pace of federal spending has slowed, leaving states and cities struggling to make up the difference.

Aside from the burden on schools, the paper found an ASD diagnosis costs the average family the equivalent of $5,089 a year in time devoted to additional caregiving, $3,020 in higher medical costs and $350 for the cost of therapy and other services.

Interestingly, LaVelle and her team found that most parents spent very little out-of-pocket, except for those whose children were diagnosed as most severely affected. One possible reason: 34 states have passed laws requiring insurance companies to pay for at least some autism treatment.

“This might mean insurance reform is working, if families are not feeling such large out-of-pocket costs,” says Michael Rosanoff, associate director for public health research at the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which helps to push for the laws.

Rosanoff says other studies have found a higher out-of-pocket cost, and notes that the study sample was relatively small – it looked at 137 families coping with an ASD diagnosis and 121 other families – and may have missed the most extreme cases. Some parents report spending as much as $100,000 in a year for assessments, medical care and intense therapy. And a 2006 study estimated it can cost $3.2 million to care for a person with autism throughout their life, taking into account medical bills, therapy and lost economic opportunities.

In making the case for insurers to foot the bill for early treatment, advocates say it saves money in the long run, by reducing the burden on schools and by enabling more people to live independent lives.

One often-cited study found that of children who began treatment before turning 3, nearly half improved to the point where they were indistinguishable from same-age peers.

Melissa Solares, whose son Arturo was diagnosed with ASD in 2012 at the age of 4, says the massive intervention has paid off. “Arturo is doing amazing,” she says. While he initially could speak less than 50 words, he’s now at grade level or advanced academically. “We are looking for him to lose his diagnosis in the next year or two.”

But it’s also true that costs might rise, at least in the short term, if all parents were able to access high-quality treatment. According to the new report, only 31% of families reporting an ASD diagnosis used any kind of formal therapy in the previous year.

Indeed, other studies have found a significantly higher cost burden; one study in the United Kingdom found an annual price tag of $44,063 while another in Sweden pegged the annual cost at more than $68,000 per child.

“The reality is that almost every family or individual seeking needed support and services is unable to afford the cost,” says Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “The bigger challenge we constantly face is how to support the needs of the vast majority of those impacted by autism who have limited resources and struggle each day to get by.”

soundoff (647 Responses)
  1. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 17, 2021 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repair Fountain Valley


    June 17, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. laundromats near me


    June 17, 2021 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. chinese buffet near me

    I really love your blog.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you create this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím hoping to create my own site and would like to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Appreciate it!


    June 17, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. physical therapy near me

    Itís hard to come by well-informed people in this particular subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 17, 2021 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. auctions near me

    Iím amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog thatís both equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.


    June 17, 2021 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. dsw near me

    Great info. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!


    June 18, 2021 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. stores open near me


    June 18, 2021 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. pest control near me

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


    June 18, 2021 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. for rent near me


    June 18, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. breakfast restaurants near me


    June 18, 2021 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. beauty supply near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this website needs far more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the info!


    June 18, 2021 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. toilet paper near me


    June 18, 2021 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. realtors near me

    After looking into a few of the articles on your web page, I truly appreciate your way of blogging. I added it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my website as well and tell me how you feel.


    June 18, 2021 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Around Me


    June 18, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair California


    June 18, 2021 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair Garden Grove

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 18, 2021 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Iím impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog thatís equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something regarding this.


    June 18, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Orange County

    There's certainly a lot to find out about this issue. I really like all the points you've made.


    June 18, 2021 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for supplying this info.


    June 18, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am having issues with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 18, 2021 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Repair Orange County


    June 18, 2021 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't fail me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, however I really believed you'd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you can fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.


    June 18, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. park near me

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, however I really thought you'd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    June 19, 2021 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shop Near My Location


    June 19, 2021 at 06:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    This is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate infoÖ Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 19, 2021 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 19, 2021 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repair Places Near Me

    Very good information. Lucky me I ran across your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I've saved it for later!


    June 19, 2021 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not discuss such issues. To the next! Many thanks!!


    June 19, 2021 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    May I simply just say what a relief to find someone that actually understands what they're discussing on the web. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you surely have the gift.


    June 19, 2021 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    Itís difficult to find well-informed people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 19, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    There's certainly a great deal to know about this subject. I really like all the points you've made.


    June 19, 2021 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repair Near Me Now


    June 19, 2021 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    I'm very pleased to discover this web site. I want to to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you saved to fav to look at new stuff on your blog.


    June 19, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Nearby RV Repair

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    June 19, 2021 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Nearby RV Repair


    June 20, 2021 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Internet Marketing Companies Near Me

    Excellent blog you have got here.. Itís difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 20, 2021 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Content Marketing Near Me


    June 20, 2021 at 07:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Lashawn Baksi

    I have a weird desire now to make a false blog. What is a good blog site to do this and let people know that its not really my thoughts but of my characters thoughts?.


    June 20, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Social Media Marketing Consultants

    Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!


    June 20, 2021 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Reginald Barns

    I really love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my own personal website and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Thanks!


    June 20, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Elfriede Trenor

    Right here is the perfect site for anybody who wishes to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written about for years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 20, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Jarvis Weisenberger


    June 20, 2021 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Carina Kinsel

    This is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate informationÖ Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!


    June 20, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Remedios Muriel

    Howdy, I think your web site may be having web browser compatibility problems. When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, great site!


    June 20, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Willetta Moitoza

    After I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 20, 2021 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. dumpster rental near me


    June 20, 2021 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair California


    June 20, 2021 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Reply to RV Repair Near Me Now


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.