In honor of the anniversary of Autism Speaks’ founding on Feb 25, for the next 25 days we will be sharing stories about the many significant scientific advances that have occurred during our first five years together. Our second item, Autism “Costs” Society, is from Autism Speaks’ Top 10 Autism Research Events of 2007.
Researchers in 2007 made several strides in forcing the community-at-large to face the magnitude of managing the disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the first nationwide prevalence survey and the first state-wide epidemiological record- based surveys using standardized approaches, making the whole country shockingly aware that 1:150 children in America has an autism diagnosis. These studies confirmed that autism can no longer be thought of as a disorder that touches only a few people.
The suffering this causes is not easy to comprehend nor to quantify. Nonetheless, a Harvard economist managed to calculate that each year autism costs society a staggering $35 billion, and that it costs more than $3 million to care for an individual with autism over their lifetime due to their special needs. Surprisingly, adult care, not child care or early intervention and treatment, accounts for most of the costs.
As families continue to struggle to gain insurance coverage, documentation of the severity of this financial burden across the lifespan will go a long way to making our voices heard, informing policy-makers, and assisting families in planning for their future. Because of data such as this, insurance reform bills are now under way or under development in 14 states.
Update since this story was first run: Through Autism Speaks’ efforts, fifteen states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin – have enacted autism insurance reform laws. Several other state legislatures are considering measures in 2010 to end the discrimination people with autism and their families have long endured. Visit AutismVotes.org to find out about action being taken in your state.