About 67 percent of the children with autism had mothers who worked outside the home. About 92 percent of the kids with autism had working fathers.
Autism spectrum disorders now affect about one in 110 children in the United States. The spectrum includes a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, all marked by difficulties in social and communication skills and repetitive behaviors.
A mother may cut back work hours or drop out of the workforce to help supervise their child's care, including advocating for services, according to the researchers.
The costs of caring for children with other disabilities is about 5 percent to 12 percent of family income, the researchers noted, citing other research.
The researchers didn't have information on how severe the autism was in each case, so Mandell couldn't say if costs are more or go up if the autism is more severe.
The findings don't surprise Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.
"Basically, autism is taking a double toll," he said. Besides the increased costs for health care and other services, the reduced earnings also have an impact, Adesman pointed out.
Parents can and should reach out for help, the experts stressed.
"Take advantage of services available," Adesman said.
For example, Mandell noted, a parent group in Philadelphia will send someone knowledgeable to go with a parent of a child with autism to the school meeting to develop the educational plan.
Peter Bell, executive vice president for services and programs for Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, said the task of caring for a child with autism can be daunting.
"The study isn't surprising for families who live with autism every day," he said. "When their child is diagnosed with autism, it i
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