Can I File for Paid Family Leave to Take Care of My Autistic Child?

by Amy Handlin ; Updated July 27, 2017
Mother kissing young daughter on the cheek.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take a job-protected leave from work to care for a child with autism or any other serious, documented health condition, including a chronic condition. This provision of the law applies to a wide range of physical and mental illnesses, disabilities and impairments.


To be eligible for FMLA leave for any reason, you must have been on the payroll of a covered employer for a total of 12 months. Your months on the job need not be consecutive, but you are required to accumulate at least 1,250 hours of employment at a work location in the United States or a U.S. territory before taking time off. If you are a school employee, you may have different timing rules to coincide with terms or semesters.

Qualifying Reasons

You are allowed to take an FMLA-protected leave to care for a child who was born to you or placed with you through adoption or foster care. Certain other personal reasons are also acceptable, including: 1. Need to care for a spouse or parent with a serious health condition 2. Need to seek treatment for your own health problem 3. Need to address common issues connected to a family member's active duty service with the U.S. military.


The FMLA is a federal law that applies to all public agencies and educational institutions. It also covers private businesses with a minimum of 50 employees during at least 20 weeks of the calendar year. These employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year to each qualifying employee. In addition, they must maintain group health insurance for any worker who held such a policy before taking time off.

Rights and Responsibilities

If you qualify for FMLA leave, you have a right to be restored to your original job or to a job with equivalent pay and benefits when you return. However, you are responsible for giving your employer enough information to determine your eligibility. You must provide notice 30 days before taking time off, or as far in advance as possible. You may also be asked to document your child's health condition, and to schedule medical treatments so as to minimize workplace disruptions.

About the Author

Amy Handlin has been writing about government, business and politics since 1999. She is the author of "Be Your Own Lobbyist" and "Government Grief: How to Help Your Small Business Survive Mindless Regulation, Political Corruption and Red Tape." She is also a state legislator and associate professor. Handlin graduated from Harvard and holds advanced degrees in marketing from Columbia and New York University.

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