According to the CDC, one in every 50 American children is diagnosed with autism. As a nation, we spend $137 billion on autism services. As parents, we spend a significant part of our income to provide the best possible future for our autistic children.
Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group, estimates that the average lifetime cost of providing care for a child with autism is $1.4 million dollars. This doesn’t include the regular costs of child-rearing such as food, clothing, basic health care, education and housing. If the child also has an intellectual disability (an IQ of 70 or less), the cost increases to $2.3 million.
Why does it cost so much? Early intervention and therapy can make a huge difference to an autistic child’s future, but insurance only covers a fraction of the cost of occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and socialization classes. Co-pays alone can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. And, insurance doesn’t cover any of the costs of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and vitamin therapy. Many parents find themselves using second mortgages and credit cards to fund their child’s treatment.
But medical costs aren’t the only expense involved in raising an autistic child. Some children require around-the-clock care. Their parents must hire an expensive care giver in order to receive any type of respite. Some children have special education needs that cannot be met at their public schools. The biggest expense, however, is supported housing for adult children who are out of school but can no longer live at home with their parents.
These expenses can be a hardship for two-parent families; for single-parent families, they are devastating. Mothers of autistic children earn 56% less than mothers of children with no special needs. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that, on average, mothers of children with autism earn less than $21,000 a year. How can these mothers provide the care their child needs and make ends meet?
California law requires that both parents support a child with special needs. However, standard child support formulas don’t take into account all of the needs of a child with autism. In order to modify a California child support agreement, you must let the judge know about your child’s special needs and requirements.
Our San Francisco divorce attorneys can help. Call The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144 to schedule an appointment with our California child support lawyers.