Everyone knows that raising children is expensive!
As of 2015, the average cost of raising a non-disabled child through age seventeen was $233,610. For parents of children with special needs, however, the number is exponentially greater. There is no statistical consensus encompassing all disability types, but, for example, individuals on the autism spectrum incur an average of $1.4 to $2.4 million in costs over their lifetime, meaning it may cost between $440,741 and $755,555 to raise a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through age seventeen.
Fortunately, families with disabled children can receive help in many forms of government assistance. One way to get started is to use the Benefit Finder tool to see which programs your family qualifies for. Here are some of the available resources for families with special needs.
At The Center we support families by helping them connect to resources and offer scholarships for reduced membership, we currently do not accept state and government waivers. Below is meant to provide general information and if you have more specific questions about what your family may qualify for please reach out to us at The Center!
For Families Who May Not Qualify for Need-Based Assistance
Every special needs family can open an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. This is a tax-advantaged savings account for children or youth who have been diagnosed with a disability prior to age twenty-six. Although contributions cannot exceed $15,000 per year, they can be made by anyone and do not disqualify the individual or family from other assistance programs.
Tax Deductions and Credits
Many families with special needs children qualify for one or more tax deductions or credits. For example, families whose unreimbursed disability-related medical care, supply, or transportation costs exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income are eligible to deduct this amount from their federal taxes. For parents who need to pay for childcare during work or job search hours, there is a child care credit of up to $3,000 per dependent. There is no age limit on this credit for children with disabilities.
Parents can also open a 529A account.
This is a savings account sponsored by some states. Like the ABLE account, the 529A account does not affect an individual’s eligibility for low-income assistance programs. As with the ABLE account, anyone can make contributions of up to $15,000 a year. The difference is that families will make deductions from their state rather than federal taxes.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a special needs assistance program that has various names and rules from state to state. It provides comprehensive medical and dental coverage to children under the age of nineteen. To qualify, parents must be unable to afford private health insurance but have incomes higher than the limit allowed to qualify for Medicaid assistance.
For Low-Income Families
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
There are a number of government assistance programs that benefit low-income families with disabled children. One general funding program is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It is not limited to families with special needs children, and it provides fiscal assistance and other services geared toward supporting careers and marriage for parents. TANF eligibility and aid amounts vary by state.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Once called the Food Stamps program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is aimed specifically at covering food costs. Like TANF, SNAP is also available to families without special needs children, and eligibility requirements vary by state.
MedicaidMedicaid is available for families with limited income and assets. This program is funded both at the state and federal level and works differently in each state. Generally speaking, Medicaid pays for health care and some medical equipment; it may also cover in-home support and certain community services.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Another source of government assistance for special needs children is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Families who meet the income and asset limit may receive up to $733 per month, and some states supplement this with additional benefit amounts. You can learn more about applying for SSI here.
For Families With College Students
Government assistance plans for special needs young adults also provide funding for college through grants, scholarships, and loans. These encompass a variety of federal and state programs with differing eligibility requirements and aid amounts. Families should also look for private sources of financial assistance as well as work-study programs for students with disabilities.
For Children of Disabled, Retired, Deceased, or Veteran Parents
Children under the age of eighteen whose parents become disabled, retire, or pass away may be eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits or Social Security Disability Benefits. With survivor benefits, the amount paid is calculated based on the earnings accrued over the parent’s lifetime. The benefits are paid to children of disabled parents who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These are contingent upon the parent having worked long and recently enough to be eligible, and social security taxes must have been paid on that income.
The children of war veterans may be eligible for benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You can read more about them here.
For Adults With Disabilities
When children with disabilities turn eighteen, they may qualify for Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits. These are available for unmarried individuals who are at least eighteen and who have been diagnosed with a disability before the age of twenty-two. Special needs children who received benefits because their parents qualified for SSDI may be eligible for this assistance in their own right if they meet the same criteria when they are adults themselves.
The New Transitions Center
For help navigating these and other special needs assistance programs, contact a disability resource center near you. If you live in the Roanoke, Texas area, contact us at the New Transitions Center!
We are a community-based organization focused on enhancing the lives of young adults with special needs and the loved ones who support them. The Center supports young adults with varying degrees of intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities, including those who may need assistance with ambulation and personal hygiene. Find out how you can help us fulfill our mission and maintain a low enrollee-to-caretaker ratio by donating to our cause, exploring our events and campaigns, or contacting us to join as a community partner today!
Every parent takes steps to prepare their child for the return to school each year, which can be a complex task even under normal circumstances. Parents of children with special needs—who had to serve as teachers, therapists, and coaches during pandemic-related school closures—face an even more Herculean process.
As schools reopen for in-person learning, many adults may be letting out a well-deserved sigh of relief. Nonetheless, it’s important to get organized well before the school year begins, particularly for parents of special needs students. Here are some key back-to-school tips.
Organize Your Child’s IEP BinderFirst, assemble or update your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) binder. The IEP binder is an excellent tool for organizing your child’s records. Use it to store all documents related to special needs services and school policies. These include your child’s evaluations, progress, and sample work as well as your communications with school personnel. If you already have an IEP binder, be sure to update it, creating new sections related to any new classes, activities, or services. If you’re new to IEPs, read more tips for creating a binder.
Discuss the Upcoming Year with Your ChildOne of the most important tips for back-to-school special needs parenting is mental preparation. As you address logistical considerations for their new school year, it will be beneficial to talk with your child about what the coming year will be like. This will help both of you to prepare for it mentally and get on the same page with regard to plans. In your conversations, be sure to do the following:
Purchase and Prepare School Clothes and SuppliesIt’s important to sort through your child’s clothes and supplies at least a few weeks before school starts, purchasing new ones as needed. Incorporate your child’s input as much as possible so that they are comfortable with the new additions. Remove outgrown or worn clothing and supplies to eliminate any confusion for your child about what to wear, bring, or use. This is a great time to organize their closets and other storage so they can find everything easily. Where applicable, help special needs children come up with a system for planning outfits each week.
Plan and Arrange TransportationOne of the most important back-to-school safety tips is to make, update, and confirm transportation plans for your child. Determine whether it’s best for your child to ride the school bus or be driven by yourself, a spouse, or another caregiver; decide how your child will get from Point A to Point B if a backup plan is needed. Communicate your plans to the school and any appointed drivers to help keep your child safe.
Schedule a Visit to Campus Before School StartsSchedule a visit to the school campus to familiarize yourself and your child with any new classrooms, lockers, facilities, or offices, particularly if they are attending a new school. This is also a good time to check that all anticipated accommodations are actually in place for them. If agreed-upon accommodations are missing or additional ones are needed, contact the school. You can prevent stress and confusion for both you and your child by ensuring that all needed items and services are in place before the start of classes.
Communicate Your Child’s Needs to Teachers and Service ProvidersAbove all else, every parent of a special needs child should communicate with school and services personnel well before the beginning of the year. This is true particularly if there are major updates to the IEP binder or to your child’s situation, and even more so if you are new to the IEP and associated procedures. Be sure to follow up on any staff recommendations from the previous spring. All of the above will help to ensure that everyone involved is up to speed with regard to your child’s needs, academic progress, and support programs.
Back-to-School Special Needs Resources for ParentsIf you’ve taken all of these steps in back-to-school preparation, congratulations—you and your child are well on your way to a successful new school year. You can consult additional resources that provide support for parents of special needs children throughout the year. If you live near Roanoke, Texas, you can also contact the New Transitions Center.
New Transitions Center is a community-based organization focused on enhancing the lives of young adults with special needs and the loved ones who support them in the Roanoke, Texas area. The Center supports young adults with varying degrees of intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities, including those who may need assistance with ambulation and personal hygiene. Find out how you can help us fulfill our mission and maintain a low member-to-direct care provider ratio by donating to our cause, exploring our events and campaigns, or contacting us to join as a community partner today!