By Michael J. Searcy
The costs associated with raising a child with special needs are endless and often underestimated. From leg braces that may cost $2,400 and can be outgrown each year to housing needs and therapy needs, the costs could reach millions over an individuals’ lifetime. By planning early and taking advantage of all available resources, families can navigate the impact that special needs care will have on their financial security.
We spoke with a physical therapist for a Missouri school district, for a glimpse into what she’s seeing at the school level. She has spent 20+ years in her district helping special needs students with various activities from positioning them in a classroom and teaching them to walk through a school, if that’s a possibility, to helping them move their joints when they get tight or making sure they don’t sit too long and produce pressure areas. She works with all age levels and abilities and understands how valuable school and other programs can be. “For parents of younger children just starting out in our programs, I see a lot of hope. As the children get older and there is a more informed view of their child’s future abilities and needs, the parents’ emotions turn to fear,” she said.
One of the biggest fears she sees is parents not knowing what will happen when their kids graduate from the school programs but still need help. We work with families to help ease the fear regarding their financial future, help get them moving in the right direction for success for their whole family, and encourage them to use every resource available to them at different ages and stages of their journey, including:
1. Find out about any state resources you have available for your child at a young age. Even if you think you have the money to care for them, get on waitlists early so you have a resource for help if you need it.
2. Find a school district that can meet your needs. Not all districts offer the same programs and levels of care, so getting in with a district that meets your specific needs is important.
3. Take advantage of transition coordinators. If you’re not sure where to find resources, some school districts provide transition coordinators whose job is to help parents find information. While the parents still have to do the work, taking advantage of someone who knows and understands the resources can be an important step in finding help.
4. Prepare for school services to end. Families are usually protected when they’re in the school system, but a special needs child may need somewhere to go when they're out of school or may still need therapy that isn’t covered or provided by another organization. Knowing what resources you will need and who will cover them (Medicaid, etc.) before you lose them can help reduce some stress for caregivers.
The Blue Valley Special Olympics' annual fundraiser is one we have had the opportunity to sponsor for several years. Not only are the financial needs great for special needs families, but the physical and emotional needs for each member of the family are great as well. Local programs such as Blue Valley Special Olympics encourage abilities among those with special needs and community among their caregivers and families. We are proud to sponsor the program and witness the value they deliver to our community.
For more information on the Blue Valley programs, visit http://www.bluevalleyrec.org/page/specialpops.php.
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Originally published by Johnson County Lifestyle Magazine and for the blog on December 5, 2016 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.