WEST PALM BEACH, Fla - Mollie Ryckman and her daughter, Sumer, are enjoying cooking eggs. It looks like a typical mother-daughter day in their West Palm Beach home, but when it comes to the costs of raising a child on the autism spectrum, the bills are anything but typical.
"It takes out any extra funds we might have in the house," said Ryckman.
Sumer is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and needs help to interact with people.
"Sometimes she doesn't fit in socially, so there's a cost of doing group play therapy, interactive therapy," she said.
The therapies can fill pages of bills.
"On average it costs us out of pocket anywhere from $700 to $800 a month," she said.
That doesn't include the medicines and psychological tests. She describes the costs covered by insurance as minimal.
"I think they help out a little with the medication, but the cost of her medication is so outrageous that I don't feel it helps with that."
Her situation is reflected in a new study by JAMA Pediatrics. It found the cost of raising a child on the autism spectrum is $1.4 million. It said in those cases where the child has autism, in addition to another disability, the cost rises to $2.4 million. Those costs are on top of the average bill of $241,000 to raise a child to the age of 18.
There is another cost that doesn't show up on the bills. Mollie has two other daughters, one just graduated from high school.
"I never really had the extra funds, like if she wanted to go out with her friends I really didn't have any extra money to give to her," she said.
She says the cost of raising Sumer far exceeds the cost of raising her other daughters.
"The expenses that get added in the medication and the therapy classes all that stuff, I would say it's tripled."
Now, she's expecting those costs to grow.
"I think the play therapies and the things like that are going to be increasing because I didn't see a need for them as much as I do now that she's getting to the age of 10."