New research on the additional family costs for meeting the everyday needs of children on the autism spectrum

New research by CRSP, funded by Family Fund, has found that families and carers raising autistic children face extra costs of over £2,605 each year to cover everyday essentials that meet their children’s needs. Parents and carers raising children on the autism spectrum need to spend at least 60% more on items, which need to be of higher, sturdier quality and replaced more regularly, in line with children’s needs.

This new research, conducted by Dr Chloe Blackwell looks at the higher costs of everyday, non-specialist, household items like furniture, clothes and electronic tablets. These costs add up to an additional spend of over £51 each week for an acceptable minimum living standard when compared to the same everyday items for families with neurotypical children. These are unavoidable costs, as they are required to meet the sensory, physical, emotional and developmental needs of children on the spectrum.

The report titled, ‘My kids need what they need.’ Additional family costs for meeting the everyday, non-specialist needs of children on the autism spectrum’, builds on the Minimum Income Standard research, which is used to set the Real Living Wage in the UK.

Dr Chloe Blackwell said “Identifying the extra costs required to raise a child on the autism spectrum is an important first step in beginning to pin down the additional incomes these households require.

“Sensory, physical, emotional and developmental needs mean children on the spectrum use and experience things like clothing and household items differently, and these needs often mean a higher quality, quantity and replacement rate of everyday items is required.

“A child on the autism spectrum may need softer clothing, for example, to meet important everyday sensory needs. And clothing items may need to be replaced much more frequently as the child may pull or chew their clothing. This can be through anxiety or sensory-seeking needs. Digital device performance is often important to children on the spectrum too, for social participation, a form of escape. As well as for developmental and communication needs.

“Keeping the home environment consistent, looking and feeling the same, can be vital for the child’s wellbeing. To meet this kind of need, families describe needing to purchase duplicates of many everyday household items. This is in case they need to be washed or become damaged, including cushions, cushion covers and blankets.

Many families raising children on the autism spectrum find it difficult to stretch finances to the spending required, which is a source of significant frustration and stress.”

Dr Abby Dunn, Family Fund’s Head of Policy, Research and Evaluation added: “Autism is a wide-spectrum disability. Everyone with the condition has different needs which drive up costs. With only 8% of parents and carers able to work as much as they want due to caring responsibilities, they’re now struggling to afford the essential things their children need, to cope with anxiety, communicate and enjoy relaxation and play. We’re all living through a cost-of-living crisis, but this research is further evidence that families raising a disabled or seriously ill child are disproportionately affected and having to go without the basics for their child.”