Child With Autism May Affect Family Income
Study Shows Mothers of Autistic Children Are Less Likely to Be Employed
Explaining the Income Gap
"A big question," Mandell says of his findings, "is why?"
He speculates that many families raising children with autism ''don't have a care system the way other families do."
For instance, he says, a family raising a child with spina bifida, a congenital abnormality, has a clear pathway through the system and knows what is needed.
However, the needs of children with autism, because the characteristics and severity of symptoms can vary, are not as clear-cut.
The families raising children with autism, Mandell says, ''are cobbling together services, fighting with health insurance."
The efforts may require so much time that someone's job has to give. "I think what is happening is the mother drops out of the labor market to be the case manager for the child," Mandell says.
The findings are no surprise to Dana Lee Baker, PhD, assistant professor of political science at Washington State University, Vancouver. She has also studied the economic impact of autism.
"The size of the impact [from the new study] is relevant and something that will get people's attention," she says.
In her own research, she has found that parents of children with autism often decline promotions and otherwise ''stall" their career due to family demands.
She finds it's not the extra effort needed to care for a child with autism that's the problem, per se. It's the time it takes, she says, to coordinate the services their child needs.
The other obstacles parents face, she says, are ''things like being reprimanded at work'' due to absences to take care of necessary services for their child.
Parents need to attend educational planning meetings, for instance. "The child [with autism] is likely to have more disciplinary meetings [than children without]," Baker says.
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.