National Autism Month is a time to continue the conversation about autism, which is the fastest-growing developmental disability in America. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its ADDM autism prevalence report, which shows that the prevalence of autism has risen to one in every 68 births in the United States. That's nearly twice the 2004 rate of one in 125 births.
Fortunately, the growing spotlight on autism has created more opportunities for organizations and financial planners to learn how to help families and their autistic children, especially when it comes to planning for the future.
The financial cost of autismAutism treatments and therapies typically make headlines, but the financial burden for many families with autistic children is often less publicized.
Some estimates put the annual individual cost at more than $26,000 for an adult with autism, which underscores the necessity of having financial support and insurance coverage. Private health insurance plans differ widely and not all of them cover necessary expenses, but the majority of states have laws that require insurance coverage of autism services, to some degree.
The lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism can top $2.4 million by some estimates. But the good news is that early diagnosis and intervention can reduce the need for special education services during school years, lowering expenses by up to two-thirds.
Helpful resources, rules and regulations
Thanks to advocacy work and congressional action, the scope of rights guaranteed to Americans with autism and other disabilities has strengthened considerably. While the spectrum of disability with autism can vary widely, people with disabilities today have a fighting chance to get an education, have a career, and live independently. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), for example, is a law guaranteeing that students who have disabilities have access to free and appropriate public education.
There are also helpful resources available online. The Autism Source database, for example, contains listings for thousands of service providers. Another great resource is a local Autism Society affiliate, which can connect those who need guidance to valuable support groups and local activities. Networks like these can aid in tough personal decisions, such as whether a parent must give up working full time or should bring a caregiver into the home.
The right financial planning can go a long way
For parents who have children with autism, having a detailed financial plan for the future is crucial to ensuring peace of mind and reducing anxiety.
Life insurance, for instance, is important for all parents, but especially for those who have children with a disability. Estate planning is also appealing for parents of autistic children because it outlines specific plans for the future, from creating a will to setting up a trust-such as a "special needs trust"-which can provide money for living expenses for an autistic child without affecting any other assistance he or she may receive.
If making decisions like these seem overwhelming, know that a qualified insurance professional is there to help. He or she can explain all of these options and select a life insurance policy that best fits a budget, meets individual needs and protects a child in light of a potentially unpredictable future.