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Autism Takes an Economic Toll on Mom's Job, Income: Study
Date:5/11/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Autism takes a grim economic toll on families, resulting in substantial underemployment and lost income among mothers, University of Pennsylvania researchers find.

This means that health care costs for a child with autism, however high, are only part of the equation, and the labor market squeeze on families should be considered whenever policymakers fund autism care, researchers suggest.

"Mothers are taking lower-paying, more flexible jobs, so that they can spend more time taking care of their autistic children," said researcher David S. Mandell, an associate professor of mental health services research in psychiatry.

This occurs more in families that include children with autism spectrum disorders than in families with children who have other health problems, he said.

"It is not because autism is more impairing to the child than some of those other health limitations, but the system that cares for children with autism is so fragmented it requires mothers to act as case managers for their children in a way that doesn't happen with children with other disorders," Mandell said.

Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders spend considerable time serving as advocates with both the health care system and schools to get the care and attention their child needs, he explained.

The findings of the study were scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Diego.

For the study, Mandell's team, led by postdoctoral fellow Zuleyha Cidav, used the U.S. government's Medical Expenditures Panel Survey to collect data on families that included children with autism spectrum disorders. To compare labor market costs, the investigators also collected survey data on families who had children with other chronic health conditions and families with healthy children.

The data set had
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