Autism: Moms Take Pay Cut to Care for Kids

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"What this means, to some extent, is that we're taking the most educated and potentially most valuable employees out of the work force," he said. "These are women with a tremendous amount of perseverance, grit and knowledge. If we can figure out a more way for them to remain in the workplace, it would be a real societal boon."

Instead of employers offering 12 weeks of leave to care for children with chronic conditions, for example, they should have a more flexible approach that allows mothers to run to appointments when necessary, Mandell said.

"They need the flexibility to do these things and still be a contributing member at their place of employment," he said.

Laurie Roiger of Minneapolis, Minn., stayed home for five years after her son, Braydon, was diagnosed with autism. When she went back to work, her husband stayed home.

"We basically lived on one income for 10 years," she said. "It took a lot of planning to do that."

But Roiger's husband is now going back to work.

"My boss is going to let me come in 40 minutes later so I can get Braydon on the bus," she said. "That really helped. I think we're much more calm about whole thing now that I can be there in the morning."

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