Rising autism rates have tangible costs, and researchers at the UC Davis recently published a study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders that estimates these costs both for this year and for 10 years from now. To predict these costs, they looked at both ASD-related medical and nonmedical expenses, as well as productivity losses—and the results could be staggering: $268 billion for 2015 and $461 billion for 2025. And actually, the researchers considered these to be conservative estimates. If ASD prevalence continues to increase as it has in recent years, the annual costs could possibly reach $1 trillion by 2025.
This is a tremendous amount of money, of course, and the researchers are hoping that this sort of quantitative data will inspire more research into the causes and treatment of ASD, motivate policy change, and help grow both early intervention and employment programs that will promote independence and reduce costs of custodial caregiving in the long run.
This call to action is incredibly important, and I'm glad to hear it coming along with data. As a mom to a non-verbal 7-year-old with autism, I'm quite aware of the financial strain of raising a child on the spectrum. I've had to say no to excellent programs and opportunities for my son, simply because my husband and I couldn't afford them. We've paid large repair bills at homes we've rented because our son's newest stim included chomping on wooden window frames and doors, and we're overwhelmed by the thought of future costs. With that in mind, I applaud the idea of funding more early intervention and employment programs, not just so parents face less financial stress, but also so kids and adults with autism have a better chance at a better life.
Image "Autism word on wooden cubes" via Shutterstock