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Autism Costs Average $17,000 Yearly for Each Child, Study Finds

The cost of services for children with autism averages more than $17,000 per child each year -- with school systems footing much of the bill, a new U.S. study estimates.

Researchers found that compared to kids without autism, those with the disorder had higher costs for doctor visits and prescriptions -- an extra $3,000 a year, on average.

But the biggest expenses were outside the medical realm. "Non-health care" services averaged $14,000 per child, and special education at school accounted for more than 60 percent of those costs.

Past studies into the costs of autism have mainly focused on health care, said Tara Lavelle, a researcher at RAND Corp. in Arlington, Va., who led the new study published online Feb. 10 and in the March print issue of Pediatrics.

These findings, she said, give a more comprehensive view. Her team estimates that services for children with autism cost the United States $11.5 billion in 2011 alone.

And the dollar estimates from this study cover only children with autism -- not adults, noted Rosanoff, who was not involved in the research.

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