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Curtin researchers determine the cost of autism in WA first study

Posted: 22 September 2014

Curtin University researchers have determined that a delay in diagnosis of a child with autism spectrum disorder, can result in substantial lifetime costs to an individual, their family and the community.

Professor Torbjorn Falkmer, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, said the study found the median cost of raising a child who had been diagnosed with autism was $34,900 per annum.

“For each additional symptom reported, approximately $1,400 cost for the family per annum was added,” Professor Falkmer said.

“90 per cent of that cost is due to loss of income from employment because parents have to take time off work to attend specialist appointments and pay for therapies. An additional expense and difficulty faced by parents of children with autism is finding childcare centers manned by staff with adequate training.

The study found that appropriate access to early intervention is known to improve a child’s long-term outcomes and reduce lifetime costs to the individual, family and society.

It also highlighted a need for additional employment support for families of children with autism and increased focus on early diagnosis.

An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis results in impaired social skills, communication and stereotyped repetitive behaviour (which in turn translates to low or no ability to accommodate change). Approximately 4,000 families registered a child with autism according to the Disability Services Commission, although it is expected that many more are affected and do not yet have a formal diagnosis.