Today’s economy is rough on families around the country, but there are some who are impacted more than others. Having a child with autism is an emotional, physical, and fiscal feat. Parents of autistic children have additional expenditures that can turn a middle-income family into a low-income family in a matter of months. Unfortunately, poverty amongst families with an autistic child is growing in the United States at a rapid rate, and there are not enough government-funded programs available to assist them. Families with autistic children do have options and assistance, but from privately funded organizations.

The Financial Impact of a Child With Autism

Many people do not know the costs associated with raising a child with autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 68 children is diagnosed with a form of autism. The severe financial strain associated with the diagnosis does not help the fact that the families with autistic children generally earn 28 percent less than families with non-autistic children.

Typical costs for an autistic child include, but are not limited to:

  • The loss of one parent’s income: Autistic children require around-the-clock care and stimulation. Though this can be done by a caregiver, many parents choose to quit their job and stay home to care for their autistic child. In a two-parent family, that means one parent must shoulder the burden of earning enough money to support the family and the extensive cost of care.
  • Specialty schooling:  Children with autism often cannot attend the same classes or schools as non-autistic children. This is because they require different learning environments and instruction. Specialty schools, tutors, and teachers can cost families several hundred dollars per month—or thousands per year.
  • Special activities: It has been shown that specialized activities with other autistic children help those with autism learn to function in a non-autistic environment. These activities include special camps, swimming lessons, and social events, but these activities can be expensive. Parents can spend hundreds of dollars annually sending their children to these special events that are imperative for the social development of their child.
  • Special equipment: Autistic children require specialized equipment to learn. Recent studies have shown that iPads help autistic children relate to the world, learn, and socialize in a non-confrontational environment. Parents who wish to provide their child with an iPad can expect to spend upwards of $500 for the most basic model.
  • Lacking health coverage: Health insurance has not caught up with the times. Unfortunately, many health insurance plans exclude treatment for autism or outright refuse to cover behavioral-related therapy because it is considered “educational” rather than medical. By denying coverage, parents are left to pay these treatment costs out-of-pocket, which can be several hundred dollars per visit, and visits can occur several times per week. Occupational and emotional therapy, for example, costs an average of $150 per session, which parents must pay themselves.

Obtaining Assistance

Parents with autistic children are not alone. Privately funded organizations, such as ASDF, offer financial assistance to families in need. These organizations offer scholarships and other financial aid to help pay for social skills camps, holiday purchases, swimming lesson costs, iPad purchases, and other therapeutic treatments not covered by health insurance.

Parents who are struggling financially to provide for their autistic child do not have to feel alone. Though the government and health insurance industry has yet to catch up, privately funded organizations like ASDF understand the financial impact associated with autism and strive to help families cope emotionally and financially.

If you have a child with autism and want to learn more about programs that can help, visit ASDF is a charity that supports children with autism spectrum disorders by providing education, information, and financial assistance to their families and relevant community service organizations. Funds donated to ASDF are used to address any and all kinds of issues in assisting children with autism and their families. Visit, email, or call 877.806.0635 for more information and to see how you can help.

Back to articles