Filling out college entrance forms is a major step toward the fulfillment of dreams for high school seniors. This is especially the case now that public schools demand students choose their careers as early as the eighth grade, so that their high school coursework may be customized with their future professional goals in mind. But dreams are expensive, and Haddie's acceptance by Cornell is a scary awakening to this new level of parental responsibility. Her tuition to Cornell will tax the Braverman's finances to the limit.
In a previous episode, after much debate and angst, Adam and Kristina bit the bullet and decided to finance Haddie's Ivy League schooling. But Ivy League schools are incredibly expensive, and Adam is now anxious about his ability to support his family. A major factor in this anxiety is Max and his needs in the coming years. Most families that have children with ASD face this same emotional rollercoaster.
Adam knows Max's two sisters will also require much in the way of financial support, but these expenses are nothing compared to what Max will need in the future. A recent Harvard study found that the cost of raising a neurotypical child is $290,000; the cost of raising a child with ASD has been estimated to be $3.2 million! A bit of a difference? No kidding!
Besides the routine costs of a neurotypical child, this cost also includes high-priced, one-on-one speech, occupational, behavioral and communication therapies, home repairs for damage caused by the child's meltdowns, specialized support at school, respite services and vocational training and supported employment. In many cases, at least one parent must give up a job because someone in the family has to be able to run at a moment's notice to pick up their child (from school, childcare, etc.) due to some autism-related disaster.
When Max hears Haddie must send $1,000 as a deposit to accompany her application to Cornell, he immediately asks if he too can have $1,000. He has absolutely no understanding that his parents have already paid that $1,000 over and over again for all the specialized therapy he has received over the years. But make no mistake: Haddie understands. Siblings of individuals with ASD recognize they don't get nearly as much attention and money as the brother or sister with autism. Some understand the reasons for the discrepancy and can accept it; but many cannot and are embittered - sometimes for the rest of their lives.
This is a sensitive issue. Parents have to find ways to demonstrate they love all their children equally, disability or not. But it can be oh so hard when the child with autism or Asperger's has such high demands and when exhaustion sets in and bills pile up. All too many families that have children with autism or Asperger's are hanging on by their fingernails and are living below the poverty level.
The sale of the studio is Adam's chance at financial stability, appearing as a lifeline, and helping him face factors that Crosby, as a single dad of a neurotypical child, can't truly appreciate. Adam's chance to have financial stability means Crosby may lose his dream - but if the studio isn't sold, Haddie may lose her dream. In this case, there is no easy answer. Someone will win; someone will lose. Welcome to the world of autism spectrum.
Written by Sheila Wagner, M.Ed.