Original Research

‘How deep are your pockets?’ Autoethnographic reflections on the cost of raising a child with autism

Mary G. Clasquin-Johnson, Michel Clasquin-Johnson
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a356 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.356 | © 2018 Mary G. Clasquin-Johnson, Michel Clasquin-Johnson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 December 2016 | Published: 27 March 2018

About the author(s)

Mary G. Clasquin-Johnson, Department of Inclusive Education, University of South Africa, South Africa
Michel Clasquin-Johnson, Department of Religious Studies and Arabic, University of South Africa, South Africa


Background: In this article, we reflected on our experience of the cost of parenting a child with autism, including our ongoing search for educational and therapeutic intervention.
Objectives: We aimed to give an academic insight into the state of autism education and care in South Africa as seen by us, with special attention to its cost and sustainability.
Methods: Using evocative autoethnography as storied scholarship together with critical autism studies, we reflected on stories of the past 5 years since our son’s diagnosis.
Results: Our experiences agree with international studies that establish autism as the most expensive disability. In addition to the high costs of diagnosis, existing intervention and support approaches are unaffordable for the majority of South Africans. We recommend that teachers should be trained to participate in early screening and diagnosis, as well as co-therapists, to strengthen the implementation of inclusive education.
Conclusion: The kind of autism intervention currently offered in South Africa is financially and socially unsustainable. Instead of positioning autism as an individual or family dilemma, it should be addressed as an educational and societal issue. Future research should explore cost-effective options for a developing country context, while promoting best practice within inclusive settings.


Autism; Autoethnography; Biomedical Intervention; Cost; Critical Autism Studies; Early Intensive Intervention; Remediation; Therapy


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Crossref Citations

1. ‘We are doing damage control’: Government stakeholder perspectives of educational and other services for children with autism spectrum disorder in South Africa
Sarosha Pillay, Madeleine Duncan, Petrus J de Vries
Autism  vol: 28  issue: 1  first page: 73  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1177/13623613221142111