Your Finances: Handling ADHD costs

Get tips on how you can help your

Get tips on how you can help your kids with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. (Credit: iStock)

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is the most commonly diagnosed childhood behavioral disorder, with the number of parent-reported cases amounting to 9.5 percent of all kids age 4-17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Besides the social and educational impact of the illness, there are also financial implications.

One study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry tabulates the direct costs per year for ADHD treatment as $1,574 per person, plus $2,728 for each other family member (including indirect costs like lost income).

Here are some tips for striking the right balance:

Schooling: If your child has ADHD and the learning challenges that may come with it, federal law requires that public schools make the necessary resources available.

Chris Davis, whose 9-year-old son shows early signs of ADHD, takes an active role in leveraging what his local school has to offer.

"We find out in advance of bigger [school] projects that are coming up, so we can divide a large assignment into digestible chunks," Davis says, alluding to the fact that his child, like many kids with ADHD, has trouble managing big tasks. As a result, they haven't needed to move their son to a private school with smaller classroom sizes, saving them an annual tuition fee of $20,000 or more in his home state of Connecticut.

Still, some local schools may be so cash-strapped they haven't got the extra resources, forcing some families of children with needs to seriously consider going private.

Insurance: As not all health plans are created alike, sign up for the most gold-plated one your employer offers, to offset the significant costs you're going to face.

And don't automatically write off publicly funded programs, even though many in-demand providers may not accept it. If your child has a disability, regardless of your income, you can apply for Medicaid and have a service coordinator.

Budget: Remember there are direct ADHD costs -- for co-pays for medication or doctor's visits -- and indirect costs, too -- like lost parental income. If you're essentially a full-time advocate for your child because of his or her condition, you may have to cut back on work hours. Take advantage of a flexible-spending account if your employer offers one, which will let you cover medical expenses with pretax money.

Resources: Being a parent of an ADHD child means you'll basically become a lay expert on the condition. The organization CHADD at chadd.org is a good place to start to learn, as is its National Resource Center  at help4adhd.org. And if you work for a large employer, you may well have access to an Employee Assistance Program that can plug you into an array of useful resources.

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