April is National Autism Acceptance Month. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders affected one in 150 children in 2000; prevalence increased to one in 54 children in 2016. This climb in prevalence means it is increasingly likely that employers have employees who are parents of children on the autism spectrum. The uncertainty surrounding this condition and the stress of caregiving often have a significant impact on those workers. They may suffer from anxiety, depression and financial insecurity, and they may struggle to find work-life balance. This could translate into a decline in productivity via absenteeism, presenteeism and possibly even turnover.
What can employers and plan sponsors do to help?
Although there is no known cure for autism spectrum disorders, treatments are available to help individuals overcome disabling aspects of the condition. Early intervention is most effective.
While many states have laws that require insurance coverage for autism services, self-funded employers do not have such a mandate. According to the International Foundation’s biennial benchmarking survey, Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results, almost half of responding organizations (49%) offer coverage for autism treatments.
What sorts of treatments can be covered?
- Diagnostic and assessment services
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Social skills training
- Applied behavioral analysis therapy
- Psychiatric and psychological care
- Medication management
- Complementary and alternative medicine
Other ways employers can help:
- Financial assistance
- Matching or direct contributions into health and/or dependent care flexible spending accounts
- Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
- Mental health benefits for both employees and dependents
- Family support services (e.g., resource and referral services, assistance in finding a caregiver)
- Paid and/or unpaid family leave
- Flexible working arrangements
- Peer support groups for parents of children with developmental disabilities
Providing support through benefits can build employee loyalty and reinforce a company culture of care and inclusion.
Julie Stich, CEBS
Vice President, Content, at the International Foundation
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