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Easter Seals' Study Sheds New Light on Parents' Life-Long Fears, Anxieties and Critical Supports Needed to Raise a Child With Autism

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents of children with autism are struggling with a host of worries that impact every aspect of their lives, and are particularly fearful that their family will lack the life-long supports needed to address the significant challenges of autism, according to a new study released today by Easter Seals and made possible by MassMutual Financial Group.

Easter Seals' Living with Autism Study results reveal parents raising children with autism are very concerned about the future independence of their children. In fact, they're far more concerned than parents of typically developing children -- nearly 80 percent say they're extremely or very concerned about their children's independence as an adult, compared to only 32 percent of other parents. This is especially true when it comes to their financial independence, quality of life, social and inter-personal connections, and employment and housing opportunities -- and with good reason.

Autism is a growing public health crisis, with millions of families desperate for solutions and resources. Easter Seals and others in the autism community are doing their best, but current systems, structures and resources to help people with autism and their families do not adequately meet the growing need, especially for adults with autism.

"The study quantifies what we've heard anecdotally over the years," says Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Easter Seals national director, autism services. "The one consistent message Easter Seals hears from the families we serve -- after the initial apprehension and anxiety of learning their child has autism -- is an overwhelming concern about the life-long supports their child with autism may need to be independent."

Study Shows Parents' Hope for Independence...Financial and Otherwise

The nationwide study provides new insight into the ongoing challenges facing individuals and families living with autism, particularly their concerns about the future. It's unique in that it closely considers and quantifies the very real concerns of parents of children with autism in relation to parents of typically developing children.

    A sampling of the findings:
    -- Parents of children living with autism are very concerned about their
       children fitting into society, with very few feeling their children
       will be able to:

       o Make his or her own life decisions (14% compared to 65% of parents
         with typically developing children)
       o Have friends in the community (17% compared to 57% of typical
       o Have a spouse or life partner (9% compared to 51% of typical parents)
       o Be valued by their community (18% compared to 50% of typical parents)
       o Participate in recreational activities (20% compared to 50% of
         typical parents)

    -- Children with autism also are less likely than their typically
       developing peers to have bank accounts (37% vs. 55%) and use electronic
       products like cell phones (9% vs. 41%) or MP3 players (23% vs. 49%) --
       all tools of mainstream society.

    -- Many parents of children with autism report they're "financially
       drowning," with concerns for their children's financial independence
       seeming to far surpass the worries of typical parents. Seventy-four
       percent of parents of children with autism fear their children will not
       have enough financial support after they die, while only 18% of typical
       parents share this fear.

       They also express extreme financial strains and costs associated with
       caring for a child with autism, with more than half stating that the
       cost of caring for my child:

      o Drains my family's current financial resources (52% compared to 13% of
        typical parents)
      o Will drain my family's future finances (50% compared to 10% of typical
      o Will cause me to fall short of cash during retirement (54% compared to
        13% of typical parents)

    -- Key to adult independence is employment, yet only 24% of teenagers with
       autism have looked for a job, compared to 77% of their typically
       developing peers. And 76% of parents of children with autism are
       concerned about their child's future employment, when only 35% of
       typical parents share this fear.

"Families living with autism face so many challenges on a daily basis," says John Chandler, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of MassMutual's U.S. Insurance Group. "But this study has really brought home for us how much stress they face when it comes to their current financial situation, the future of their child with autism, their other children and their own retirement. Our hundreds of Special Care Planners across the country are in a great position to help make at least this part of their struggle easier."

As an Easter Seals corporate partner and the study sponsor, MassMutual is committed to serving people living with autism and other disabilities through its exclusive SpecialCare(SM) program, an innovative solution that gives families with individuals with special needs access to information, specialists, and financial strategies that can help improve their quality of life.

Easter Seals worked with Harris Interactive, and in cooperation with the Autism Society of America, to conduct the Living with Autism Study and survey 1,652 parents of children who have autism and 917 parents of typically developing children about daily life, relationships, independence, education, housing, employment, finances and healthcare.*

Study Findings to Drive Solutions

"Easter Seals strives to make data-based-decisions," Wright says. "With this study, the disparities that parents of typically developing children and parents of children with autism experience can now be shared via solid numbers."

Easter Seals will use the study results to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services millions of families living with autism desperately need -- including school to work transitions, employment support, residential and community support, and financial planning.

"For parents of kids with autism, there are no simple answers," adds Wright. "There is an urgent need for increased funding and services -- especially for adults with autism. Easter Seals wants to help change all of this and make a difference for families living with autism today."


This Easter Seals' Living with Autism Study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Easter Sealsbetween June 16 and July 17, 2008 among 1,652 parents of children age 30 and under who have autism and 917 parents of typically developing children age 30 and under. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

About Easter Seals

Autism is a lifelong disability that affects the way a person's brain functions, involving challenges in communication, social skills, and behaviors. While there is no known cause or cure, autism is treatable and people with autism can -- and do -- lead meaningful lives. Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For nearly 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Visit or to learn more about autism, find services at an Easter Seals near you, or help change the lives of people living with autism by becoming a donor or volunteer.

About Harris Interactive(R)

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research that is powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

About MassMutual Financial Group

MassMutual is a leader in helping people with disabilities and other special needs and their families through its exclusive SpecialCare(SM) Program, an innovative outreach initiative that provides access to information, specialists, and financial solutions that can help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and other special needs and their families and caregivers. For more information and resources on autism, go to

MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual and its subsidiaries had more than $500 billion in assets under management at year-end 2007. Assets under management include assets and certain external investment funds managed by MassMutual's subsidiaries. Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a mutually owned financial protection, accumulation and income management company headquartered in Springfield, Mass. MassMutual's major affiliates include: OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MML Investors Services, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC ( and; MassMutual International LLC and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB. MassMutual is on the Internet at

About the Autism Society of America (ASA)

ASA, the nation's leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. For more information, visit

SOURCE Easter Seals
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