Time costs of caring for children with severe disabilities compared with caring for children without disabilities

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2001 Aug;43(8):529-33. doi: 10.1017/s0012162201000962.


To assess time costs of caring for children with severe disabilities in the community compared to caring for children without disabilities, a diary- and questionnaire-based study was carried out. Sixteen complete data sets were obtained from families with children who have disabilities (mean age 8.7 years) and 31 complete data sets from families with normally developing children (mean age 4.9 years). Diagnoses in the study group included cerebral palsy, autism, Sanfillipo syndrome, lissencephaly, and osteogenesis imperfecta. Items of personal care per waking hour were significantly greater in children with disabilities than non-disabled children (p<0.001). In the study group, there was no correlation (r=-0.12) between age and frequency of care whereas a significant correlation was observed between degree of disability as measured by the Functional Independence Measure for children (WeeFIM) and frequency of care items (r=0.89). Twelve of the 16 mothers in the study group were not in paid employment. Twelve had little or no extended family support. Benefits awarded did not correlate with the degree of disability as measured by the WeeFIM (r=-0.11). Care needs of children with severe disabilities are significantly greater than those of non-disabled children and do not decrease with advancing age. Mothers of children with disabilities are unable to work outside the home because of these care needs. This brings the family income, even when benefits are included, to a level that is less than peer families with non-disabled children. A Functional Disability Score may help to achieve more appropriate allocation of state resources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Disabled Children / rehabilitation*
  • Employment
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Support