Planning and providing for a child with special needs

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Raising a child can be quite expensive. This is especially true when it comes to raising a child with special needs. In fact, one study funded by Autism Speaks estimated the average lifetime cost to be $1.4 million for a person affected by autism. And that’s to say nothing of the other forms of special needs, which can include blindness, Down syndrome and ADHD.

With planning and preparation, you can help to ensure your child has the help they need, now and for the future. There are lots of organizations and services out there that can make the cost more manageable. In this guide, we’ll walk through some of the steps you can take to help you provide for your child. With this information — and the help of qualified professionals — you’ll have the tools necessary to make informed decisions for your child’s future.

Planning for a lifetime

According to the CDC, autism affects 1 in 88 children. And, based on the findings of the National Down Syndrome Society, 1 in 700 babies is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. These figures can seem daunting, but there are things you can do to ensure your child’s needs are met.

We’ve put together an in-depth look at ways parents can plan for their child’s lifetime. These tips are divided up into important milestones in your child’s life for easy reference. Remember, this information is not a substitute for consulting a financial professional; it’s a resource to further your understanding so you can make informed decisions.

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Hit the ground running

Child’s Birth – Age 3

You can never quite be ready for every eventuality when it comes to a child’s special needs. Every child is unique. However, there are things you can do after the birth of your child, and even before, that can make a huge difference down the road.

Ask about Early Intervention

The sooner you can ask your paediatrician about Early Intervention, the better. For those who don’t know, Early Intervention is a system of services for babies and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays. Early Intervention services can entail teaching physical and cognitive skills such as crawling and problem-solving, along with communication and social skills like listening and playing.

These areas of focus and what they entail may vary based on your child’s level of need. Your local paediatrician might be able to point you in the direction of services available in your area. You can also explore online resources for more information. By getting a leg up on this research, you’ll be able to estimate the level of investment and budget this into your financial planning.

On to public school

Age 3 – Age 18

By this time, you might be starting to understand your child’s diagnosis a little better. This understanding is invaluable, as it can help you advocate on your child’s behalf as they graduate from home-based Early Intervention into individualized education. As your child continues to grow, you will gain more insight into their special needs and be able to adjust your financial plans accordingly.

Build bridges with your community

Take the time to meet with your community leaders and establish a rapport with the local school faculty. You should definitely make it a point to speak with your local law enforcement and emergency services about your child’s special needs. Accidents happen, and if your child is unable to speak for themselves or articulate their feelings, a simple misunderstanding could turn disastrous.

Get involved in your school community

There’s no reason you should have to go through this alone. In fact, you might find there are plenty of families in your area going through something similar. Speak with your school’s principal or reach out to community organizers in your neighbourhood for information on parent support groups or educational workshops. This is a great way to develop bonds with other like-minded individuals as well as gain some important insight from parents of older children. In turn, this will assist you in determining the proper amount of financial aid your child will need.

Review finances regularly

About every 2 or 3 years, you should review your finances to determine if you are on track to achieve your goals. As your child grows, you’ll be able to develop an idea of what resources he or she may need. You may find that you no longer require such a large life insurance policy, or you may discover that more is required. Keep track of your spending, including any out-of-pocket expenses for your child’s care.

Choose a legal guardian

In case something happens to you, it’s important to designate a legal guardian for children under the age of 18. However, depending on your child’s needs, he or she may need ongoing help and guidance as an adult. In the event that you feel your child cannot make important life and financial decisions on their own, a guardian will need to be appointed.

 Spreading their wings

Age 18 – 22

Your child is no longer, legally, a child. Depending on their diagnosis, they may even be ready to enter the world of college. There’s a lot to consider, including whether your child will stay in school and if they will require additional support. This is also a great time to review items we have previously touched upon.

Consider workshops and adult education

In some cases, college may not be an option, but that doesn’t mean your child has nothing to contribute or can’t make their own way. Speak with your local school administration to determine if there are any opportunities to attend employment or educational workshops.

 Life after school

Age 22+

By this point, your child is out of the public school environment and really coming into their own. There’s still time to look into additional support groups and services but, for now, your focus should be on reviewing your estate plans and balancing your child’s financial needs with your own.

Review estate plan and/or special needs trust

Make sure everything is in order as far as your will or special needs trust. It never hurts to double-check these things. Consider special needs trust. If you’ve already established one, re-evaluate the terms to ensure you’re happy with the arrangement of the appointed trustee and the manner in which funds are dispensed.

Providing a healthy life

It can be difficult to determine what your child will need when they are firstborn. Instead, it’s recommended that you spend the first couple of years living in the moment and understanding your child’s special needs before making any huge decisions. Once your child starts getting into public school and graduates from Early Intervention, you’ll have a clearer understanding of their diagnosis and what you’ll need to do to ensure their financial future. Beyond that point, you’ll need to reevaluate your financial goals and plans accordingly.

Source: The Simple Dollar

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