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Many families struggle with financial demands of autism

Today is International Autism Awareness Day. Autism is a developmental disorder that can cause major communication, social and behavioral barriers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One in 88 children is believed to have a developmental disorder on the Autism spectrum, and boys are five times as likely as girls to be diagnosed.

While autism can often be treated with behavioral, occupation and speech therapy, many families struggle financially because the diagnosis and treatment of autism is not always covered by insurance.

Currently, 32 states have mandated that state-regulated insurance providers cover autism, according to Autism Speaks, an advocacy group for families. Several other states are currently considering similar laws.

Autism Speaks is urging President Obama to back national legislation that would require all insurance companies that aren't under state regulation to cover autism needs.

Even treatment for children with high-functioning autism can be expensive as therapy sessions are usually needed at least once per week and cost about $150 per session.

One mother of a 14-year-old autistic boy said her family has spent about $100,000 in out of pocket costs to provide treatment to her son. She said she believes that the effects of autism can be lessened with early and intensive therapy, so the money has been well spent.

However, she said her son requires "tremendous support and assistance" on a daily basis and this will likely be necessary throughout his whole life.

Luckily, Supplemental Security Income may be available to a child whose family income and assets are below the SSI limits. SSI or Social Security Disability Benefits may also be available to adults with autism who cannot work because of the developmental disability.

Source: ABC News, "Autism Bankrupts Families, Emotionally and Financially," Susan Donaldson James, April 2, 2013

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