A recent study released by NUIG has found that one-third of families that have a child with autism have sunk into debt in the past 12 months, as well as 74 per cent of children and adolescents not receiving one or more services in the past year.
This study examined the level and nature of unmet service needs of children and adolescents with a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder and debt related to meeting the needs of such families in Ireland.
The study shows 33 per cent of families incurred debt in the previous 12 months specifically due to the child’s condition resulting in an average ASD related family debt of €3,260 per year.
Áine Roddy, the study’s lead author said: “The financial and quality of life implications of not addressing the needs of autistic people with appropriate services and supports are profound.”
The study also found that families that had two or more children with an ASD were significantly more likely to experience unmet service needs and would incur debt in the previous year due to the condition.
On top of this 61 per cent of children had unmet needs because a required service was currently not being provided in Ireland, while 31 per cent had unmet needs as services were not being provided in their area. A total of 55 per cent of the 222 children had unmet needs arising from being on a waiting list for currently provided services.
Examples of the unmet service needs cited in the published article included occupational therapy, social skills training and speech and language therapy.
“Policymakers need to understand that we need to spend in order to save, as research shows that autism is the most expensive condition internationally due to the substantial economic burden on State expenditure for adult assisted care provisions, institutional care costs and high unemployment rates (80 per cent) among autistic adults,” said Roddy.
Roddy said the next Government needed to invest in improving long-term outcomes and support autistic people and their families.
“Last April a motion put before Dáil members in Ireland to set up a Parliamentary Committee on Autism and publish a National Autism Empowerment Strategy received unanimous political support.”
The study is based on a national survey on the economics of autism spectrum disorder in Ireland among 195 families with 222 children aged between two and 18 years of age in 2014/2015.
Details of the study are published in the international journal, Health Policy.
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