Thursday, April 7, 2011

Costs Great, Blessings Greater

Autism Fact #5 - Lifetime care for an individuals with autism is estimated at $3.2 million.

The fact takes my breath away a bit. Considering the cost of caring for Seth over his lifetime is overwhelming. The cost of raising a typical child is estimated at $250,000, which is not an insignificant chunk of change in itself. For a child with autism these costs escalate to 13 times the costs of raising a typical kid. And these are just the monetary costs we are considering here. There are far greater costs to family life - the breakdown of marriages (80-90% of marriages between couples with a special needs child end in divorce), the emotional and physical strain on caregivers, and the toll caring for a child with a disability has on other siblings in the family.

But along with the costs there are also great blessings. There is the blessing of learning to truly focus on that which is important in this life. The blessing of rejoicing in the small victories each and every day. The blessing of seeing great compassion and love develop in your typical children as they come alongside and care for their affected sibling. The blessing of relishing in simple joys - finding all the "Cars" character vehicles when some were lost and then acting out the entire movie, the excitement of a completed lego creation, the utter joy in roadways and buses, and so much more.

Autism Fact #6 - Costs of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis & treatment.

As we began the journey of autism we found incredible evidence that supported this second fact. Early diagnosis and treatment are key. Seth was diagnosed early and has received intensive early intervention. Even though Seth is still very affected by autism, these interventions have made a dramatic difference in his life. Before we started treatment Seth was completely disengaged from the world around him - he made little or no eye contact, could not sit and attend to any unpreferred task at all, had minimal to non-existant imitation skills, did not play appropriately with toys, and had no imaginative skills.

Through early and intensive intervention Seth has grown dramatically in all of these areas. Seth is now very engaged with those around him. He cares deeply for his family and is always excited to see Bella & Luke come home from school. He is aware when Mike is gone on business trips and is saddened by his absence. He asks specifically about his therapists - wanting to know if Mary or Aerika are coming to see him on a given day. Seth now makes eye contact very regularly - it is still difficult for him, but he knows the importance and value of this skill. Seth can now sit and attend to schoolwork and therapy for up to 30 minutes at a time - an unthinkable length of time when we started therapy. Seth's imitation skills are very strong now - he quickly learns new skills that are based in imitation. Seth plays for appropriately with toys - this is an area that many therapists remark is a strength for him that they do not see very often with other children with autism. Seth has growing imaginative skills - he pretends with kitchen toys, the dollhouse, cars, and his legos. Seth has made great gains through the interventions he has received.

Unfortunately Seth is still very affected with autism and will need continued intensive intervention for years to come. We are blessed to live in a state with waiver services that cover many of these therapies. After getting Seth on a waiver our out of pocket costs have been far lower than other families I know who do not have the same waiver services. My heart goes out to these families and I pray that soon there will be treatments available to all regardless of ability to pay. And yet there are many additional costs not covered by the waiver or insurance - including special and expensive gluten free, casein free foods; medical services with specialists not covered under insurance; therapy materials and products, and more.

We have been blessed by the generosity of God's people through the years. Friends and family have helped us to meet Seth's needs through generous financial gifts and we are soooo grateful for this help. We were recently blessed with a tremendous gift to help cover continuing costs for Seth. We are overwhelmed by God's provision in our lives and are thankful to have a need that gives us an opportunity to see God's hand at work in miraculous ways. We have grown in our faith as we have watched God provide and we have been so moved by the generosity of others. Yes the costs involved in raising a child with autism are great, but I'm beginning to believe that the blessings are even greater!!

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