Autism Cost in the U.S

After my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I wondered what came next. From my knowledge, he was the only one in the family to have such diagnosis, so I had no clear sense of direction. How did other single parents cope with having a child or children with ASD? How would the diagnosis affect his future? What therapeutic interventions where available? How would we gain access to them? Most importantly, how would I afford such needed therapies on a single household income? I was not prepared, to say the least, for autism cost in the U.S. Despite my worries, I knew I needed a game plan. For my son to function at his best, early intervention was pivotal regardless of its cost.

Available Options 

Certain public schools offer free interventional services to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental conditions. My son received his initial speech and occupational therapies in the public-school setting. He received speech therapy two times weekly and occupational therapy once weekly with each session lasting for 30 minutes. At the time, he was considered nonverbal and since evidence suggests that nonverbal children with ASD achieve better outcomes in language production with intensive speech sessions (Rogers et al, 2006), I knew that an hour of speech therapy weekly would prove insufficient.

Autism cost in the U.S is challenging for parents with children with autism spectrum disorder. Some insurances cover short term ancillary services base on diagnoses. Our insurance covered speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavioral services with our out-of-pocket costs consisting of coinsurance of 20 percent after deductible is met. In addition to speech therapy offered at school, my son received private speech therapy three times weekly for an hour each session; costing $50 per session. That’s $150 weekly for speech therapy alone. Occupational therapy cost mirrored that of speech therapy. Fortunately, we were able to obtain grants that met the remanding balance for applied behavioral services after insurance payment was applied.  This alleviated much of our autism cost. The typical out of pocket cost for speech therapy in the U.S for those not covered by health insurance can range anywhere from $150-$350 for an initial evaluation. Follow-up speech therapy per hour sessions can cost between $100 to $200. These ranges were priced from different therapy centers that did not accept our insurance. After years of speech therapy my son is no longer considered nonverbal; albeit, he still faces minor challenges with receptive and expressive language. We have reduced outpatient speech therapy with more focus on in-home speech and language techniques.

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy is another intervention of autism. Some studies suggest that behavioral modification programs like ABA therapy is beneficial to language development and impact core deficits of children with autism (Harrington & Allen, 2014). The per child cost of ABA therapy in the U.S is estimated at $45,000 annually. However, not everyone is a proponent of ABA therapy. See ABA Therapy and Autism: Is ABA Abusive to decide if ABA therapy is right for you and your family.

The annual autism cost in the U.S is $137 billion nationally with residual care, loss of productivity, underemployment, and unemployment in adulthood costing $2.3 million (Shiozawa, 2015). Autism cost in the U.S can be quite challenging with the type and duration of needed interventions determining the overall cost. This article focuses on the typical cost for speech therapy and ABA therapy while neglecting autism cost for occupational therapy, special education schooling, and or expenditures on medical and mental health services.




Rogers SJ, Hayden D, Hepburn S, Charlifue-Smith R, Hall T, & Hayes A. (2006). Teaching young nonverbal children with autism useful speech: A pilot study of the Denver Model and PROMPT interventions. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 36(8), 1007–1024.

Harrington, J. W., & Allen, K. (2014). The clinician’s guide to autism. Pediatrics in Review, 35(2), 62–78.

Shiozawa, B. (2015). It’s About Time for Autism Reform Legislation in Utah. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 45(5), 1495–1496.