A guide for Australian parents to the costs of special education for children with autism

A guide for Australian parents to the costs of special education for children with autism

Children diagnosed with autism will often need special education or some form of education support to carry them through their school years. The level of support required will be based on the child’s level of ability and may consist of a certain number of hours of instruction by professionals in an academic setting followed by consistent adult supervision at home.

While a majority of children on the autism spectrum do need some kind of special education, some others are able to integrate into mainstream schooling with some help. Specialised schooling is not only restricted to special education schools but can also expand to include other options like schools for people with learning disabilities, hospital schools and even home schooling. Based on individual needs, any of these options may work for children with autism. According to data collected from a study more than 80% of school age children on the autism spectrum do utilise some form of special education.

Even those children that attend mainstream schools will need additional support and services that can be a cost factor for parents. Based on a 2006 survey the average annual cost for offering special education to children with ASD was estimated at $28,150. For children with HFA the annual cost was estimated at $18,848.

Another study gives an idea of the differential value between the expenses incurred by special education and compares them to costs involved in standard education. Once again looking at figures in 2006, these numbers came to $11,677 for standard education while $27,044 were incurred on special education. The figures show a differential cost of $15,327 between the two.

According to the Ministerial Portfolio Statement for the Department of Education and the Arts in Queensland the average cost per student receiving standard education rested at $9,697 and the same for those receiving special education services was listed at $27,337 each. The differential cost between the two rested at $15,640.

For those children who suffer from HFA/Asperger’s the requirement for special education services has been observed to be somewhat less intensive than those needed for individuals with conventional autism. Survey estimates show that HFA sufferers incur special education costs of $10,553 for every child which comes to 67% of the estimated cost for those with autism.

Using the Queensland data the total annual costs for special education for children with ASD come to $ 81,778 for those with a low prevalence of the condition and at an astounding $159,500 for children with a high prevalence.

In contrast, children diagnosed with HFA/Asperger’s with low prevalence incurred annual special education costs of $35,377 and those with the same but with high prevalence incurred costs of $51,132. In total, special education costs for children with low prevalence of the condition amounted to $117,155 while for those with a high prevalence of the condition, special education costs rested at $210,632.

In addition to these special education services provided, some families may also have to face certain private expenditures related to special education for their child in the form of tutoring.


1) Economic Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Australia: www.synergies.com.au/_inc/doc_download.aspx?did=194