Caring for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the United States is becoming pricier.
Alarming numbers have been calculated in a new study published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, conducted by Paul Leigh and Juan Du, health economists at the University of California, Davis.
According to the study, it will cost $268 billion to care for Americans with autism in 2015. In 2025, however, the cost could rise up to $461 billion if appropriate interventions and preventative measures are not better developed or more accessible than today.
Furthermore, autism is becoming more prevalent each year. If ASD continues to rise at a similar rate, it may cost a whooping $1 trillion to care for autistic Americans in 2025.
Various expenses were taken into account to calculate the annual costs, including health services, residential and in-home care. In addition, the fees for special education, transportation, employment support and lost productivity were included in the calculation.
Evidently, these frightening costs indicate a lack in research dedicated to gaining a better understanding of ASD. At this rate, preventative treatments, as well as post-diagnoses care, will not be explored enough to sufficiently improve the quality of life of autistic Americans within the next 10 years.
“The current costs of ASD are more than double the combined costs of stroke and hypertension and on a par with the costs of diabetes,” Leigh explained. “There should be at least as much public, research and government attention to finding the causes and best treatments for ASD as there is for these other major diseases.”
Leigh and Du see a solution that will allow the country to escape from paying such a high cost: investing as much in research about ASD as is available for studies dedicated to understanding and treating diabetes, a cause for which iCare4Autism is committed.
Leonard Abbeduto, director of the UC Davis MIND Institute, notes that funding is not only necessary for research.
“We also need to ensure that all children have access to intensive early intervention; that school-based interventions to support academics, as well as social and language skills, are adequately funded; and that supports are put in place to ensure better post-secondary and vocational options for adults,” said Abbeduto. “Investing in these areas, I believe, will actually reduce the costs to society,” he added.
Leigh and Du hope their calculations will make enough noise to inspire changes. The researchers urge more action to be taken to catalyze notable policy changes. They would like to see earlier identification of autism in individuals in order to lessen ASD symptoms but also increased employment of adults on the spectrum to promote their independence.
According to Leigh, “this approach would ultimately save money that otherwise would be spent on expensive custodial care.”