According to Autism Speaks, the cost of caring for an autistic person over his or her lifetime is $2.3 million. Per year, that is approximately $60,000.
Families shoulder much of that burden.
Sadly, autism spectrum disorder is not uncommon. In the United States it is estimated that 1 in 68 births results in ASD. This means that more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder and that as many as 25% of these individuals are non-verbal, that’s over 875,000 people in America that are living with limited communication.
Lisa and David Pauley are parents of two - Davis, 8, and Zachary, 17. Davis was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, and Lisa quit her job as a daycare owner in order to devote herself full-time to her son's needs.
They live in Sandy, Utah, where insurance companies don't have to cover the costs of autism treatments. So, the family has to magically come up with money to pay for expensive treatments.
Lisa felt "guilty" for having to quit her job and not being able to contribute to her family's income. But in the end, she knew the sacrifice was worth it.
When it was time to enroll Davis in school, she had "sticker shock" when realizing the cost was far beyond what she expected.
"I had no idea that a special-needs private school was going to cost $27,000 a year once Davis hit kindergarten age. I was blown away by the expense. Not that it wasn’t worth it, but the tuition didn’t even cover everything. It only paid for him to be at the school where they did ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy and one speech therapy session a week, which is wonderful, but it’s not enough. So on top of that, we still had to go out and find everything else our child needed: a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, etc. It was just insurmountable. A lot of my friends [with autistic children] were mortgaging their houses and taking out these big crazy loans."
Lisa's opinion is that her son could have made far greater strides in improving, however the family couldn't afford treatments, school, and everything else associated with raising a child with ASD.
This is only ONE example of how families struggle with the financial burdens of raising a child with ASD. Read Lisa's full story here.
Other anonymous parents say...
"I have two children on the spectrum (6 and 15). They are both on the higher end, but have other medical/mental disorders as well. As a result, we were paying close to $1,000 a month. We have found an amazing new doctor that has helped us drop our costs. However, it is still over $700 a month, and we are having to skip many therapies that we just can’t afford. Our other two children miss out on so many things due to the cost/time that we just don’t have. It was nice to read that we aren’t alone in this. So many of our peers just think that we don’t know how to handle our money. They just don’t understand the cost that is involved."
"I’m a single mom with an autistic child, one not specified but likely bipolar child, and an in-between who has some hearing loss but is otherwise neuro-typical. I don’t even have the option of staying at home and I feel our local developmental center kind of gave up on us. No help anywhere, and no support. My kids are falling through the cracks because I have a job and it's just over the limit for Medicaid or SSI. So should I quit work, live in public housing, to get help? I have a masters degree. We are the working poor."
As you can see, the costs and burdens associated with being a parent of someone with ASD is not something any of us can imagine, unless we've experienced it firsthand. This is a daily struggle that becomes a part of everyday life, but causes families stress, disorder, guilt, sadness, and financial instability.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Did you know that you can help families like Lisa's and the other anonymous parents above? The costs of raising a child with ASD or other exceptionalities is incredibly high, no matter how much support families receive. It will never be enough. But, people like you can at least help put money towards a specialized education. There is something called an STO - a Student Tuition Organization. This organization gives scholarships direclty to thousands of Arizona students in private schools, like the students at Pieceful Solutions. Not all of our students can afford tuition, and they have to resort to public schools, or go into serious debt trying to cover the fees.
But, you can donate directly to an STO (not our school, but a non-profit organization monitored by the government) and you're not only helping fun the tuition for thousands of students who otherwise wouldn't be able to receive the education they deserve, but you're also not incurring any cost, because donations are 100% tax deductible. Simply save your receipt and the amount donated gets subtracted (dollar for dollar) from the taxes you owe. It's a win-win situation - not only are you helping families and students with ASD, but you're also choosing where you spend your taxes. You can deduct up to $2,177 (filing jointly) or $1,089 (as an individual), if you choose to donate to fund an ASD student's tuition instead of pay your taxes.
Help a family in need. Donate now and deduct whatever you donate from your taxes. These families need our help!