By Lee Sherman
Parents are responsible for their children, but special needs children require more support that may last well into adulthood. If you have a special needs child, you’ll want to make sure your financial plan can cover the need for physical and occupational therapy, emotional support, special equipment, possible home improvements, and ongoing additional medical and financial support that must last their entire life. Additionally, you’ll want to take full advantage of the benefits available to them.
According to the US Census Bureau, one in five children meets the qualification as a special needs child. So it pays to plan for this common scenario. We covered the primary considerations in an earlier article but there are additional best practices you should know about.
First, remember that like disability, the definition of Special Needs can be wide-ranging and includes things like blindness, autism, down syndrome, ALS, and even ADHD. Since all of these are different and some are more serious than others, recommendations on how to plan for them will vary. What they have in common however, is that they are life-changing and can be expensive.
Plan early, adapt often
Planning for a special needs child begins at birth. Because they are going to need a leg up in life, it doesn’t make sense to wait until they are adults. Financial advisors suggest thinking about your child’s needs in relation to life’s milestones. Special needs children require the most attention during their developmental stages.
Consider early intervention. Early intervention is a way to provide services for babies who show evidence of developmental or other disabilities. Your pediatrician can be enlisted to help your baby learn to crawl and adopt social skills like listening and playing nice with others.
Teenagers can take full advantage of educational programs and other government assistance available to special needs children. This starts with either public or private school. Not only will your child receive a proper education through high school but a special education representative can help you craft an Individualized Education Program, or IEP that takes into consideration their unique needs and challenges. The Department of Defense offers the DoD Special Needs Parent Toolkit a fantastic resource even if you aren’t in the military. Depending on your child’s needs, you can also find resources from organizations such as the Autism Society or the National Organization for Rare Disorders. This is just the start of the national, state, and regional programs available to help your kids. There are programs in place to help with college scholarships, entrepreneurship, and even self-esteem.
If you have the means and are planning to pass your estate to your children, you can of course use a will. A standard will can help you plan for your child’s needs after you’re gone. But, as we pointed out earlier, you may not want to give too much away. You’ll need to walk a tightrope between providing for your child and giving them so much money that they are no longer eligible for Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. One way around this is to establish a special needs trust.
It’s a good practice to appoint a friend, family member, or trusted lawyer to administer this trust on behalf of your child. It’s a best of both worlds situation in which your child has access to needed funds but continues to be eligible for any government assistance they might need.
Lee Sherman is a contributing writer to MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors. Lee is an experienced journalist and editor with over 30 years of expertise with a significant history of writing in the personal finance and technology arenas.