While many people with autism and their families will cope well with the additional challenges autism brings, the emotional impact of autism is often difficult and sometimes devastating for people with autism and the families of those affected.
In the case of people with, for example, Asperger Syndrome, levels of mental health problems and depression are high as individuals struggle to cope in everyday society. Whilst many people argue that people with autism should be regarded simply as different rather than 'disordered', there is no doubt of the very real distress that autism can cause.
People with autism and learning disabilities may have no speech and complex special needs and may need full-time care.
For the individual with autism, the world can be a confusing and lonely place, where everyone except them understands the rules of appropriate behaviour.
For the family of an autistic child life is often stressful. Parents and siblings usually have to cope with unyielding challenging behaviour and possibly sleep deprivation, as many children with autism do not sleep for long periods of time.
Because children and adults with autism find it difficult to manage in social situations, many families become isolated.
Added to this, is the difficult and lengthy processes to obtain from local authorities the special education to which children with autism are entitled.
Many parents with autistic children believe that they will be primary carer for life and are often very concerned about what will happen to their child when they die.
The stresses to family life can lead to relationship breakdowns, divorce and, in extreme circumstances, suicide.
Just under half of parents of children with autism experience mental distress.
Research by the National Autistic Society has found that
- 90% of parents of children with Asperger Syndrome report their child has been a target of bullying in the past year
- 20% children with autism have been excluded from school
- 15% of adults with autism are in full time paid employment
- 49% of adults with autism still live with their parents
Each year, autism costs families and public services some £28 billion in the UK. Of this:
- £15 billion provides services for adults
- £9.2 billion is the cost of lost employment
- £2.7billion is the cost of supporting children with autism in their education
The remaining costs are the additional family expenses.
Of the medical conditions so far researched, autism appears to have the highest cost to the country.
The average additional lifetime costs for living support and education for someone with autism and learning disabilities is £4.7m.
The average lifetime costs for living support and education of someone with, for example, Asperger Syndrome is £2.9m.