Having a kid with Autism Spectrum Disorder, from high-functioning Aspy’s who can pass for “quirky” with a little help to ASD issues to the point of non-verbal and non-functioning, is expensive. A recent study has looked at just how much it can cost to have a child on the spectrum, and the answer was as much as $2 million over a lifetime for some children.
We’re lucky. Firstly, because Bubbles is a high-functioning Aspy who integrates well. Secondly, because Sweet Babou’s income allowed me to be a Stay At Home Parent when Bubbles was a still a baby and toddler.
According to the study:
“I was surprised that the second-highest cost in childhood was lost wages for parents leaving work to care for children with autism,” said Mandell. “Normally, when we look at expenses, we’re looking at system-level expenses, education costs … We’re so rarely looking at more indirect costs.”
I got my Master’s in 2005, six weeks after Bubbles was born. I didn’t even bother trying to find a job because even at 6 weeks it was clear she wasn’t a baby that was going to handle day care or anything other than Mommy’s Full Attention 24/7. We had learned we couldn’t even leave her in the church nursery for an hour, because she shrieked the entire time. I have taken care of a LOT of kids who cried when Mommy or Daddy left their sight. On average, it takes 5 minutes for the child to stop crying and start playing. An hour? That’s something different. In this case, the “different” turned out to be Asperger’s syndrome.
I know a lot of other people, mostly Moms, who also took a hiatus or a set-back on their careers when they became mothers to children with ASD. Yet we were the lucky ones. We weren’t single moms or moms from families that need two incomes to survive who had to leave their babies in day care regardless of the screaming/misery. For most parents, that’s a choice that feels almost as good as being flayed alive.
Which reminds me, did you know America is one of only 3 nations on the planet with not so much as a day of paid maternal leave laws to protect new parents? (Yes, we have the Family Medical Care Leave Act form 1993 but it has loopholes for employers to avoid doing it that you can sail a battleship through.) In the United Kingdom a mom is “entitled to 52 weeks of maternity (or adoption) leave, 39 weeks of which is paid, planned to rise to 52 weeks paid, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of full pay and the remainder at a fixed rate (£136.78/week as of 2014)”.
It is looking more and more like ASD is caused and/or exacerbated by a either/or both genes and pollution. The forecast for air pollution in the future isn’t good. That probably means more kids with ASD.
America really should look into getting a parental (Dads are parents too) paid leave policy that actually works.