Mothers of Kids With Autism Earn Less, Study
MONDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers of children with
autism and autism spectrum disorders earn significantly less than
what mothers of children who have no health limitations earn, a new
study has found.
These moms even earn less than mothers of children with other
Mothers of children with autism earned, on average, less than
$21,000 a year, the researchers found. That was 56 percent less
than mothers whose children had no health limitations and 35
percent less than mothers whose children had other health
In addition, moms who have children with autism are 6 percent
less likely to be employed, and work an average of seven hours less
per week than mothers of children with no health limitations, the
While the researchers did not find differences in fathers'
incomes, the overall income in families that have children with
autism suffers, said lead researcher David Mandell, associate
director of the Center for Autism Research at the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia and associate director of the Center for
Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of
Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
"Families of children with autism experience a 28 percent reduction in income compared to families with typically developing children," he said. The family incomes of parents whose children have autism is also less, 21 percent, than those whose children have other health limitations, Mandell found.
The study is published online March 19 and in the April print
For the study, Mandell and his colleagues looked at data from
the 2002-2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. This ongoing survey
of U.S. households collects detailed information on medical
conditions, health services use and expenditure, and other
The researchers looked at 261 children with autism spectrum
disorders, nearly 3,000 with other health limitations and more than
64,000 with no health limitations.
About 67 percent of the children with autism had mothers who
worked outside the home. About 92 percent of the kids with autism
had working fathers.
Autism spectrum disorders now affect about one in 110 children
in the United States. The spectrum includes a range of
neurodevelopmental disorders, all marked by difficulties in social
and communication skills and repetitive behaviors.
A mother may cut back work hours or drop out of the workforce to
help supervise their child's care, including advocating for
services, according to the researchers.
The costs of caring for children with other disabilities is
about 5 percent to 12 percent of family income, the researchers
noted, citing other research.
The researchers didn't have information on how severe the autism
was in each case, so Mandell couldn't say if costs are more or go
up if the autism is more severe.
The findings don't surprise Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of
developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven &
Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.
"Basically, autism is taking a double toll," he said. Besides the increased costs for health care and other services, the reduced earnings also have an impact, Adesman pointed out.
Parents can and should reach out for help, the experts
"Take advantage of services available," Adesman said.
For example, Mandell noted, a parent group in Philadelphia will
send someone knowledgeable to go with a parent of a child with
autism to the school meeting to develop the educational plan.
Peter Bell, executive vice president for services and programs
for Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, said the task of caring for a
child with autism can be daunting.
"The study isn't surprising for families who live with autism every day," he said. "When their child is diagnosed with autism, it is a game changer."
To learn more about autism spectrum disorders, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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