Australian families and the Australian communities are facing an annual Autism cost of up to $7.2 billion annually. This is in relation to receiving and obtaining an Autism diagnosis. This is borne by the individuals themselves, their families, their community, and by government. This was in fact the figures from this 2014 study . Six years on we can assume the cost have substantially increased. It will continue to do so as we hear of reports that the NDIS are cutting funding for autistic individuals.
At present gaining a diagnosis is a lengthy and costly process. The “Gold standard” diagnosis requires a multi-disciplinary team and can be time consuming and expensive. It may be surprising to learn that the estimated to cost of obtaining a diagnosis can vary between $1500 and $8,000 in the private sector. While there are very few Australian public diagnostic clinics available. Of those who are providing this service most are reporting wait times of up to 2 year.
There has been a 25% increase in recent diagnosis in Australia. The delivery of diagnostic services and early intervention that are delayed can financially impact families. We should note here that diagnosis increases are not due to “more individuals” being autistic. It is a case of greater awareness of autism symptoms and a greater understanding of autism. In the past many have thought of autism as a burden. It is a positive step forward to learn that we now understand the benefits of a diagnosis. It allows supports and understanding.
Let’s break down this 4.5 – 7.2-billion-dollar cost.
Autism cost – Loss of Productivity.
Loss of productivity relates to parent’s and carer’s ability to retain employment and relates to time away from their job. With significant time needed to not only gain and autism diagnosis but also to attend various therapies. Parents and carers also report significant time needed to assist with school, and provide support on a day-to-day basis.
Autism cost – Out of pocket expenses.
Let’s face it having children is not a cheap exercise in any circumstance. You find yourself requiring supports that a “Atypical family” may not deem necessary. Sensory equipment, added support and therapies, communication devices. It is becoming clear that families are still struggling even with NDIS funding. While some families report the inability to gain funding due to their child “not being autistic enough”
Autism cost – Treatment related travel costs.
Related to travel for therapies and to required medical appointments was found to financially impact families. Not only in relation to loss of productivity but also with therapies. We also should not that there is a significant chance of the comorbidity of other medical and health conditions.
Estimated costs for families seeking a diagnosis and supports was between AUD $20,700 and $51,700 per year. This figure is based on median income from wages from 2014. Almost 90% of the sum is due to loss of income from employment. We have to note that these figures are not only in relation to the cost of supporting an autistic child. The cost includes the families out of pocket expenses that is not covered by the NDIS. So, in fact we can assume that the cost of a diagnosis to the Australian population is significantly higher.
We can only conclude that increasing NDIS funds for individuals and children with an autism diagnosis is a positive thing. It is not only good for those family’s seeking assistance is makes good sense economically for all Australians. We should actually be increasing funding for NDIS participants. Along with federally funding more public diagnosis clinics for those seeking an early autism diagnosis. It would save us all money.