A review of: M. D. Kogan, B. B. Strickland, S. J. Blumberg, G. K. Singh, J. M. Perrin, P. C. van Dyck (2008). A National Profile of the Health Care Experiences and Family Impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children in the United States, 2005-2006 PEDIATRICS, 122 (6) DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-1057

This article provides interesting and updated epidemiological data on the rates of autism and the health and financial impact that ASDs have on families in the USA. These data comes from the 2005-2006 National Survey of Children With Special Health Care Needs. This survey consisted of phone nation-wide surveys of families with children under 18 years of age. All US states and the district of Columbia were represented. A total of 191,640 homes were screened. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, and 4 Asian languages.

The national prevalence of ASD was estimated to be 86 children per 10,000 between the ages of 3 and 18. This translates to approximately 1 case per every 116, which is higher than the often cited 1 per 150 CDC number (See this post about how the original CDC data was gathered). As expected and previously reported, boys, non-Hispanic white children, and poor children, were at higher risk of ASD than girls, Hispanic, African American, and affluent children.

Regarding health care access and financial impact:
1. Children with ASD or other emotional/behavioral problem experienced more delayed or forgone medical care when compared to children with other medical special needs.
2. Children with ASD or other emotional/behavioral problem experienced more difficulty receiving needed referrals when compared to children with other medical special needs.
3. However, when compared to children with other emotional/behavioral problems as well as with children with other medical special needs, families of children with ASDs reported significantly more: a) need for additional income to cover care expenses, b) need for reduction of employment in order to attend to the child’s condition, c) likely to spend over 10 hours per week attending to the child’s condition, d) more likely to spend over 1,000 out of pocket expenses per year in the child’s medical care.

This large national survey study suggests that ASDs results in significantly more financial burden to families than any other health care need including other behavioral, emotional, or medical problems.

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