Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects many aspects of family life, such as social and economic burden. Little investigation of this phenomenon has been carried out in China. We designed this study to evaluate the employment and financial burdens of families with ASD-diagnosed preschoolers.
Methods: Four hundred and fifty-nine nuclear families of children with ASD, 418 with some other disability (OD) and 424 with typically developing (TD) children were recruited for this study. Employment and financial burdens of families were evaluated using a structured questionnaire; logistic regression was used to examine differences in job change measures by group, and ordinal logistic regression was used to investigate the association between household income and group.
Results: Fifty-eight percent of families with ASD children and 19% of families with OD children reported that childcare problems had greatly affected their employment decisions, compared with 9% of families with TD children (p < 0.001). Age of child, parental education and parental age notwithstanding, having a child with ASD and having a child with OD were both associated with increased odds of reporting that childcare greatly interfered with employment (ASD, OR: 15.936; OD, OR: 2.502; all p < 0.001) and decreased the odds of living in a higher-income household (ASD, estimate = -1.271; OD, estimate = -0.569; all p < 0.001). The average loss of annual income associated with having a child with ASD was Chinese RenMinBi (RMB) 44,077 ($7,226), compared with RMB 20,788 ($3,408) for families of OD children.
Conclusions: ASD is associated with severe employment and financial burdens, much more than for OD, in families with preschool children.