Families dealing with autism face heavy financial burden

CALGARY- A report from the University of Calgary has found many Canadian families are struggling to pay for the costs associated with caring for a child with autism, a bill that can top $5.5 million over the course of a child’s life.

“Families are trying to do their best to get through but nobody’s really aware of just the enormous cost associated with an autism diagnosis,” Herb Emery, the report’s co-author explains.

The report measures the non-medical costs of care and support for children with autism, finding the annual cost of care can range from $30,000 to over $158,000 in the case of individuals with high needs.

“That only includes the actual support and care time that’s needed to assist that person,” explains co-author, Carolyn Dudley. “It wouldn’t include health care costs for psychologists and speech therapists or the added expenses like communication devices.”

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Samantha Cranfield is the mother of a 5-year-old girl on the autism spectrum. She says her family receives funding to pay for much of her daughter’s therapy right now, but as her daughter gets older the money available to them begins to disappear.

“In the last three years we’ve spent about $10,000 out of pocket,” she explains. “Once she starts school, there will be more costs.”

Gaps are particularly evident once a child turns 18.  The report says there is an immediate need for better adult support programs and quality group homes.

“As families are aging, parents are wondering what’s going to happen to my kids after I’m gone,” says Emery.

The report makes a number of recommendations for government, including  increasing the annual caregiver tax credit of $300 and exploring autonomy insurance, which has already been proposed in Quebec.

Click here to read the full report.

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