In the recently published sixth report in the National Autism Indicators Report series, researchers from Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute highlight a holistic picture of what health and health care look like across the life course for people on the autism spectrum.
Researchers found when parents were asked about whether their child had certain health conditions, children with ASD had higher rates of every single condition except for asthma, compared to other children with special health care needs. Conditions included learning disability, behavior or conduct problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), speech or language disorder and anxiety.
Similarly, in another set of data, adults with ASD had higher rates of many conditions than a random sample of other adults. Adults with ASD were two to three times as likely to have depression or anxiety, compared to adults without ASD and were also far more likely to have hypertension, epilepsy, ADHD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
When it comes to paying for the health care, almost half (46%) of parents of children with ASD reported that their child’s insurance did not always cover the services they needed. One-fifth of parents of children with ASD reported avoiding changing jobs because of concerns about maintaining health insurance for their child – five times the rate of parents of children with no special health care needs.
Because of the complexity of care, parents either sought help or felt they needed more help with coordinating health care. Of parents whose child with ASD had more than one health care appointment in the past 12 months, 28% reported someone helped coordinate or arrange care among different providers, similar to parents of children with other special health care needs. Another 30% of parents of children with ASD reported they could use more help coordinating care – more than parents of other children with special health care needs.