The price of education: out of pocket costs of early intervention program for parents with autistic children

The price of education: out of pocket costs of early intervention program for parents with autistic children

Autism is a lifelong condition that impacts various facets of an individual’s life. For children who are able to get a timely diagnosis for the condition, the best therapy considered is applied behaviour analysis. The treatment seeks at modifying behaviours and improving life skills allowing the individuals to become more independent in their daily task functioning. Typically the therapy is also inclusive of speech therapy and occupational therapy services for children who need it.

The sooner the therapy is initiated, the better it is for autistic children. This means that parents have to look for early intervention and cannot necessarily wait out the time proposed by waiting lists. To seek early intervention, many Australian parents have to make sure that they have the needed funds in place to start their child’s therapy.

According to the federal government’s guidelines, early intervention for autistic children should be a minimum of twenty hours spanning over a period of two or more years. However, the funding provided to parents covers just about an hour a week.

According to experts from Autism Awareness Australia, annual costs for early intervention can easily go up to between $30,000 and $50,000. But what the government offers parents is a yearly autism package of $6000 for a period of two years. This means that only financially sound families can afford to pay for early intervention programs while the masses have to rely on extreme measures to fund the services.

To find the needed funds for early intervention, parents have been known to sell their homes. Since time is of the essence, both parents working long hours to meet the financial goals or those who can, are travelling abroad to locations like the United Kingdom where their children can access state funded autism programs.

Parents of Nicholas and Matthew Blakemore, both autistic children, have moved from Canberra to Manchester because they could not afford autism treatment for their sons in Australia. Instead, Mr. Blakemore who was born in England, decided to avail the opportunity to move there so that his children could benefit from early intervention intensive programs offered there.

Both boys have access to state funded programming in their schools. But for the multitude of people who are unable to receive or fail to receive early intervention for their condition, the majority may end up being placed in institutions or other residential facilities. Towards the severe end of the spectrum, individuals may not even learn to communicate through speech or may be severely lacking in basic life skills like the ability to dress or self-toilet.

In addition to the cost of putting children in early intervention programs, parents of autistic children also have to incur a number of other additional expenses. There are additional education support costs involved where the child may be in need of support persons to help them through their day at school. Other living support services can include childcare expenses, respite services and enrolling children in other special programs as well as accessing other social services devised for autistic children.


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