Medical costs, caregiving services, specialized equipment, and special education programs are some of the significant expenses that parents raising children with disabilities may have to incur. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of raising a child through age 17 to be around $233,610. This cost can quadruple for a child with disabilities because of the need to access special services.
Babies who suffer birth injuries may have to stay in the hospital for an extended time period to be observed and have their health stabilized before going home. Circumstantially, hospital stays can extend past a month, for example, when surgical intervention is needed.
Depending on a child’s condition, he or she may require routine examinations and checkups by medical specialists, therapy, and medication. Medical expenses for cerebral palsy, for instance, can include doctor visits, hospital stays, and physical therapy. These medical expense costs add up to $16,800 annually on average. Healthcare costs for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — a condition that some children with cerebral palsy also develop —are $2,700 per year on average.
One study found the medical costs for a baby with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to range from $1,004 for a mild TBI to $7,265 for a severe TBI within the first three months following the injury. The healthcare costs of children with severe TBIs continue indefinitely, costing parents around $10,000 annually.
Once home, parents of babies who sustained birth injuries may need to employ a skilled person, such as a pediatric nurse, to help administer the specialized care required. When both parents return to work, they may have to look for a specialized daycare service that can meet the needs of their children. Private caregiver services for a child with a TBI cost around $9,000 per year.
Children with disabilities may need to move around with mobility devices. Walkers cost $30 to $50. Manual wheelchairs usually cost $150 to $400. Parents will have to part with around $7,100 for a powered wheelchair.
A baby monitor, which typically costs hundreds of dollars, may be required to track an infant’s oxygen levels and heart rate. Children who have difficulties with speech may need speech-generating devices, which can cost more than $8,000.
A child with disabilities may struggle to maneuver through tight hallways, use the stairs or round door knobs, or access the necessities around the house like the toilet, sink, shower, and bed. A wheelchair ramp can cost anywhere between $3,500 and $8,000. Parents may also have to consider investing in:
- Shower chair
- Wheelchair lift
- Walk-in bathtubs
- Handheld showers
- Service animal
Widening hallways can also make a house more accessible for a child with special needs.
Ensuring the comfort of a child with special needs may require parents to make considerable accessibility renovations or even look for a new home.
Children with disabilities may require mobility aids that may prevent them from using school buses or standard vehicles. Parents may have to consider renting or purchasing an adaptive vehicle or look for a local transportation program.
The support given to special needs children by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ends at age 21. As a result, the costs of college tuition and accessibility aids can be a burden to parents. Private schooling for children with TBIs can cost up to $20,000 annually.
Caring for a special needs child tends to be a time-consuming task. Some parents stop working full time due to the demands of caring for special needs children. They may miss more lucrative promotions or positions to maintain the flexibility needed to take care of their child. For example, parents of children with a TBI are estimated to earn 35% less than other parents because of the time-intensive nature of caring for the children.
Even if they have private help, parents may have to miss work on certain days to help with caregiving or change jobs to care for their families. One study found the costs for missed days and work changes resulting from caring for a child with disabilities to be over $5,000 per year.
Raising a child with disabilities is expensive. Additionally, parents may have to spend hundreds of dollars on hidden costs like special foods, clothing, car expenses to go to specialty places, and unforeseen medical expenses. In a U.S. study, 40% of families with special needs children reported experiencing a financial burden because of the children’s condition.
Families can avoid struggling to pay for their children’s expenses by filing birth injury lawsuits. Birth injury attorneys help families with children who sustained birth injuries from improper care and medical negligence seek compensation to help them cover their expenses and plan for their children’s future. Government programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can also help ease the financial burden on parents caring for children with special needs.