That is the best way to describe the cost of caring for a person on the autism spectrum. The figures are tough to swallow, and would make most any person cringe.
The average cost of caring for a person on the autism specturm over the course of their lifetime is $3.2 million dollars (Harvard School of Public Health, 2006) and can reach or exceed $5 million dollars. Just hitting the average alone can be a tremendous financial shock for individuals and their families, and I would guess the costs will continue to rise. The estimated cost, per year, for treatments of all individuals in the United States on the spectrum is about $90 billion. For those of us with health insurance, we do not get too much of a break. Insurance companies will only pay for therapies when they are required to do so, so one can see why the insurance companies would not volunteer to pay for any therapies.
The cost for comprehensive early intervention programs for pre-K children can reach $50,000 (New York Times, 2006), which partially explains, but does not excuse, the roadblocks that school districts put up when it comes to providing services to children on the spectrum. I get the feeling that since autism is not as much of an outward disability as Down Syndrome, etc., they think they have the right to deny services based on appearance. They continually toe the line of discrimination, and I will continue to point it out to them until they change their approach.
Please, take a few minutes to write your local school district to ask them to address their policy regarding ESE services for children with autism. If they ignore you, escalate to your state representative. The more that people become a thorn in the side of those that continue to make ignorant policies, the more likely it is that these policies will change.