Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
The lifetime cost of supporting someone with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can exceed $2 million, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. More from The Huffington Post:
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday and funded by the nonprofit Autism Speaks, suggests that autism’s financial toll on individuals, families and society as a whole is “much higher than previously suggested,” its authors write, and includes direct medical, educational and residential costs, as well as indirect costs such as lost wages.
“We took all of the data we could find that had been published on costs and synthesized it to come up with an estimate,” researcher David Mandell, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Huffington Post.
“The lifetime cost of individuals with ASD and no intellectual disabilities was $1.4 million — and that’s in addition to the costs that would accrue with a typically-developing child,” Mandell said. “It’s $2.4 million for individuals with intellectual disabilities.” (According to estimates cited in the report, between 40 and 60 percent of people with autism spectrum disorders also have an intellectual disability, characterized by limitations in intellectual function and adaptive behaviors, including social and practical skills.)
On average, the cost for children with autism and an intellectual disability in the U.S. was more than $107,800 per year up to age 5, and roughly $85,600 per year between ages 6 and 17. Among children with no diagnosed intellectual disabilities, the associated costs were lower: approximately $63,290 per year for those 5 and under, and $52,205 per year for those between 6 and 17.
The top average annual cost was special education, followed by parents’ productivity losses and medical expenses, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency, home health care, pharmacy and out-of-pocket costs.
“I was surprised that the second-highest cost in childhood was lost wages for parents leaving work to care for children with autism,” said Mandell. “Normally, when we look at expenses, we’re looking at system-level expenses, education costs … We’re so rarely looking at more indirect costs.”
Image: Money, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, May 5th, 2014
The environmental factors a child are exposed to may hold as much weight as genetics in predicting whether that child develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new British study. More from Reuters:
Sven Sandin, who worked on the study at King’s College London and Sweden’s Karolinska institute, said it was prompted “by a very basic question which parents often ask: ‘If I have a child with autism, what is the risk my next child will too?’”
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest heritability is only half the story, with the other 50 percent explained by environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, or parental health and lifestyle.
The study also found that children with a brother or sister with autism are 10 times more likely to develop the condition, three times if they have a half-brother or sister with autism, and twice as likely if they have a cousin with autism.
“At an individual level, the risk of autism increases according to how close you are genetically to other relatives with autism,” said Sandin. “We can now provide accurate information about autism risk which can comfort and guide parents and clinicians in their decisions.”
People with autism have varying levels of impairment across three common areas: social interaction and understanding, repetitive behavior and interests, and language and communication.
The exact causes of the neurodevelopmental disorder are unknown, but evidence has shown it is likely to include a range of genetic and environmental risk factors.
Image: Baby, via Shutterstock
What’s your toddler nutrition IQ?
Add a Comment
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
The Chili’s restaurant chain cancelled a national Autism Awareness Month fundraising event intended to raise funds for autism research after parents criticized the target organization’s stance on the relationship between vaccines and the developmental disorder. More from The Boston Globe:
For the event, the nationwide restaurant chain of more than 1,200 locations promised to donate 10 percent of its “qualified” sales that day to the National Autism Association.
Although it seemed like the perfect way to feel good about those baby back ribs, some customers got smart about the fine print and looked into this do-good marketing campaign. It turns out, the money was going toward an organization that continues to support the medically debunked link between autism and vaccines.
Here is the particular statement of issue on the National Autism Awareness website (although specialists in this field take issue with a few of the “causes” listed on this page):
“The National Autism Association believes: Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.”
Chili’s regularly hosts Give Back Events, but this month, customer feedback started to steamroll Chili’s social media channels, starting as early as April 1. Hundreds of people took to Twitter and Facebook, criticizing Chili’s for aligning with an organization that continues to perpetuate a theory the medical community has previously debunked.
Image: Chili’s logo, via Chilis.com
Add a Comment
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:
Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”
The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.
The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.
More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.
“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.
The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.
Help your child track his progress in school.
Image via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
In a new report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that some of the influences that cause autism may start during pregnancy. In the study, the brains of autistic children showed differences in certain regions that normally develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. Additional reporting from TIME.com:
Working with autopsy brains of 11 children with autism and 11 children without the disorder who were between the ages of two and 15 years, the scientists focused on 25 genes responsible for specific nerve cell types in the outer layer for the brain, what’s known as the cortex.
“The outcome was fascinating,” says Ed Lein, one of the co-authors of the paper and an investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “The regions seemed to correspond to the functional symptoms of autism.”
They found that genes that coded for certain excitatory neurons, for example, were not expressed as robustly as they should have been. And these cell disruptions were often in exactly the areas that correlate with autism symptoms – parts of the brain responsible for functions such as communication and interpreting social cues.
In 10 of the 11 autism brains, the researchers found patches of abnormal gene expression, which they discovered in only one of the 11 control samples. And Lein says the disruption may actually be more widespread than he and his colleagues could document, since they only analyzed tiny pieces of the cortex.
The changes very likely occur prenatally, said Lein, a developmental neurobiologist, since these parts of the cortex are generally laid down in the second trimester. That suggests that at least some of autism’s origins may emerge in the womb. But how these factors interact with other, environmental contributors isn’t known yet.
It’s also unclear whether the autistic brains were deficient in the cells that expressed the genes in question, or whether the cells were there but not functioning properly. Figuring that out could lead to new potential treatments or even reversing the changes. “In principle, this could lead to earlier diagnosis and allow us to take advantage of normal parts of the cortex to rewire the brain with appropriate early behavioral interventions,” says Lein.
Some studies already suggest that such behavior therapies, if begun early enough, can change the brains of autistic children to become more similar to those of normal children. What the current study confirms is that it’s never too early to start.
Are you pregnant? Keep track of your medical records in one place.
Image via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment