Balancing Work and a Special Needs Child

By Jessica Searcy Kmetty

Finding a great job is not always easy, and it can be even harder for a parent who is juggling responsibilities of caring for a child with special needs.

In the 2019/2020 school year, there were 7.28 million disabled 3 to 21 year olds in the United States who were covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to the US Census Bureau Report, 2 in 7 households report having at least one member with a disability and one in every 26 American families reported raising a child with a disability.

With regulations in place prohibiting employers from asking certain interview or health-related questions, you may wonder how much information you should openly share with an employer or a perspective employer.

  • Do I tell them up front that I may need to take time off to take my child to a doctor or hospital on a moment’s notice?
  • How do I handle regular doctor visits or therapy sessions that interfere with working hours?
  • Will they even hire me (or promote me) if they know about my son/daughter?

Sometimes the best way to address these things is to be up front about what hurdles you face, how they present, and how you plan to address them.

For example, if you routinely take your child to the doctor or therapist, and you know you’ll need that time off work, be up front about it and offer to make up the time in other ways.

If your child has been hospitalized in the past and that’s a possibility again in the future, think about how it would impact your job and employer and explain how you would deal with it should it happen again. Will you work remotely? Will you and your spouse trade off so that each of you are able to work half-days through the duration of the hospitalization?

Be creative and offer more than one solution if you have more than one available to you. In a post-pandemic world, where employers have become accustomed to having to find creative solutions for remote workers, they’re more likely to be open to finding solutions that work for everyone.

One of the most critical things to remember is that people can’t help you solve a problem if they aren’t informed about it.

If you are able to be honest about your situation and let your employer (or prospective employer) know about the possibility of limitations you have, then you can gain their support. It’s equally important to be open with and cultivate relationships with coworkers or other employees that you may be able to rely on in a pinch. Having a few people who can cover for you in an emergency can be a tremendous help and offer peace of mind to all involved, but remember it’s a two-way street, so you also need to reciprocate and find ways to offer them support as well.

Finally, it’s important to build up an emergency fund that can help you stay financially afloat if/when you need to take a leave of absence that is unpaid.

Many families who have children with health issues routinely run out of paid time off, so it’s important to plan for that eventuality in advance. If a normative family (one with no extraordinary needs) is advised to save 3-6 months of living expenses into their emergency fund, it makes sense to set aside more than that. Ideally, you should save enough to cover your maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses plus a few extra months of unexpected expenses. For many families this ends up being about 12 months of savings instead of 3-6, but do the math and determine your own level of comfort.

Being vulnerable with an employer and coworkers can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Create a balance in how much you share and be willing to open up to people over time. Usually, people will rise to the occasion and endeavor to be supportive in your times of need.


Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.

The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on July 30, 2021 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.