Families pay up to €28,000 for private autism care

Amy Donohoe

Families are paying €28,000 for private autism care per child, many of which are lone parent families.

Families pay €28,000 per child on private autism care services, some of these being lone parent families according to NUIG researchers.

Aine Roddy and Ciaran O’Neill published the study last week in the international journal, Autism – The International Journal of Research and Practice which focuses on the economic impact of childhood autism disorders.

They collaborated with staff from the Centre of Public Health in Queens University Belfast and they were by the Irish Research Council and Autism Ireland.

The study showed that on average, the annual cost per child for families was over €28,000 which was the result of paying for private autism spectrum disorders (ASD) services, while over €14,000 of state funded services were consumed.

“The additional costs associated with having an autistic child are unjustifiable, the extra expenditure puts families and parent(s) under immense pressure to pay never-ending bills, solely in an attempt to give their autistic child the same opportunities as a child without the mental condition.” NUIG student, Charlotte Lucas said.

“Looking at these figure it’s apparent that the government should invest money both into health and education to help support families struggling with these extraneous costs.”

The objective of their study is to estimate the cost of childhood autism spectrum disorders and explain the variation in costs between state and family out-of-pocket expenditure.

Families whose children were more severely affected on the spectrum of autism disorder and those with more than one child affected faced substantially higher costs.

15 per cent of children with autism spectrum disorders in the survey were from lone parent families who struggle to meet needs.

Autism spectrum disorders are associated with a significant economic burden, although little is known about the relationship between state and family out-of-pocket expenditure.

Roddy from NUIG’s Business School and lead author of the study said that results show that more support is required for families raising a child with autism.

“The study shows that access to autism spectrum disorder services in Ireland is overly dependent on the ability of families to pay for those services,” said Roddy.

She added that it “places substantial financial hardship on families already facing many challenges in meeting the complex needs of children with an ASD.”

Professor O’Neill, Adjunct Professor of Health Economics in NUIG said: “The study provides valuable insights into a neglected area of research. The findings should spur policy makers in Ireland to rethink the support provided to children with ASD and their families.”

Amy Donohoe

Image credit: DCU.ie