Discover which states in the US are the least and most supportive for raising a child with autism. Being a parent is challenging in its own right,and parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) brings its own unique challenges.

All parents want what’s best for their children, and it takes time, effort, and money to develop the Whole Child. However, navigating systems of support for children in the US can be complex, to say the least.

From deciding which daycare is best for your child and then finding a school that suits his/her needs, to securing a job with a salary that pays enough to support a family and also provides adequate health care, it is a real struggle for many parents to make ends meet.

Add a $50,000 bill to pay for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for your child with autism, and that struggle can become an insurmountable obstacle without outside support.

Autism spectrum disorder in the US

Autism diagnoses are on the rise in the US, which has led to more investment in education, research, and awareness of the needs of children with ASD.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network has funded 14 sites across the US to more accurately track “the number and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder.”

Information from the ADDM Network helps communities within those states, as well as across the country, “to move forward initiatives, policies, and research that help children and families living with ASD.”

More research has also led to the adoption of state laws that require insurers to cover evidence-based treatments. Early diagnosis, early intervention, and ABA therapy are all considered effective in supporting independence and positive outcomes in therapy for children with ASD.

Although almost every state now has a law requiring insurance coverage for autism treatments, many states have limits on ages and dollar amounts to cover ABA therapy, and available treatment services vary widely from state to state. This means the level of support your child receives will vary as well, depending on where you live.

The supportive states for raising a child with autism

In order to help parents discern the most supportive states to raise children with autism, below is a list of states ranked based on several factors that impact the lives of children with autism and their families, with one being the most supportive and 51 the least supportive. The three main factors considered for these rankings include:

  1. State laws requiring insurance coverage of ABA therapy (points were weighted based on age limit, coverage limit, and types of insurers required to provide services)
  2. If a state is part of the ADDM Network
  3. Grants available to individuals and families in the specified state

Main findings

  • California, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Colorado are the most supportive states for children with autism. None of them have limits on age or dollar amount for insurance coverage (with the exception of what is allowed under the Affordable Care Act).
  • Colorado is the only state in the top fie that is part of the ADDM network. It is also the only state in the top fie without grants available for residents, according to resources listed by the Autism Support Network.
  • Idaho is the only state without a state law requiring at least some coverage for ABA therapy.
  • New Mexico and Florida are the only states with a state law requirement that specifies a lifetime coverage limit.
  • Out of the 33 states that specify a maximum coverage amount, Wisconsin, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Kentucky are the only states with a maximum yearly coverage amount of up to $50,000, which is the average cost of ABA therapy for one year.
  • Nevada has the highest maximum coverage amount at $75,000 per year.
  • Out of the 41 states that specify an age limit for insurance coverage:
    – 41.5 percent have an age limit of 19-21
    – 27 percent have an age limit of 16-18
    – 19.5 percent have an age limit below age 12
    – 12 percent have an age limit of 12-15

Tools and resources for raising a child with autism

• Educate yourself
The more you learn about ASD, the better you can advocate for your child and his/her specific needs. Do your research, explore potential treatment options, and ask lots of questions so you can make informed decisions and help your child thrive.

• Let technology help
– Technologies like wearable GPS trackers, which have features like two-way talk and real-time location tracking, can give you peace of mind and help keep your child safe.

– Free and low-cost apps like Find Me and Quick Talk AAC help children with ASD practice social skills and communicate their needs.

– Noise reduction headphones can be helpful for children with auditory sensitivity.

• Connect
The National Autism Association offers resources and tools to help keep your child safe and connects parents and caregivers through local chapters and support groups.

• Advocate
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a nonprofit organization run by individuals with autism that advocates “equal access, rights, and opportunities” for people with autism.

Although some states have broader support for individuals with autism, you can still find communities of support and resources to help you and your child with autism thrive wherever you live.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is a freelance writer and parent of two young children. She has expertise as a youth development specialist, with 14 years of experience teaching and administering experiential out-of-school time programs for children. Portfolio: