Raising a Child with a Disability: The Importance of Services and Supports
Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Today, we are going to talk about something that is very near and dear to the hearts of parents of children with disabilities – services and supports. Without the valuable help of medical professionals, special needs educators, respite workers, vocational rehabilitation trainers, therapists, etc. the work of raising a child with special needs would be much, much harder and certainly more complicated.
The key to fulfilling, positive and rewarding services and supports for your family with special needs is, of course, planning! As your child grows and matures, his or her needs will follow suit, and the types of services and supports needed will evolve. Please read on for a discussion of three important “pressure points” to keep in mind when planning for future services and supports for your child with disability.
Level 1: Birth to Age 3 – Early Childhood Intervention Services
Early intervention is a system of services that help children learn skills, achieve milestones, and stay on par developmentally with peers. These services are available from birth to 3 years, and sometimes beyond.
If your child has already been diagnosed with a disability or if you are noticing that he or she is not on par developmentally with his or her peers, early intervention is critical. The earlier the better, as the theory behind early intervention is that the younger the brain, the more flexible or “plastic” it is. Early intervention professionals say that skills learned during this time frame are more readily recalled than at any other time during a child’s life.
In the United States, Early Intervention services are available in every state and territory, as required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You may ask your pediatrician for a referral to early intervention services, or contact the EI program in your state to have your child evaluated free of charge.
Level 2: Age 3 to Adolescence
Many parents experience anxiety when their children go to school for the first time; for parent of children with special needs, this anxiety may be amplified. Parents want their children to receive the best education possible, from teachers who are trained specifically to address their challenges and help children with special needs achieve their fullest potential.
The good news is that IDEA helps to ensure that that is exactly what happens. The Individuals with Disabilities’ Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that ensures children with disabilities receive educational services and support. Quite simply, IDEA mandates that children with disabilities receive Free Appropriate Public Education – or, in other words, schools are required to provide students with a disability the specialized supports and or instructions that will address their academic needs in the least restrictive environment possible. The main principle behind IDEA is that every child with a disability deserves the right to the same quality of public education as all other children.
Under IDEA, there are a number of basic steps that all school and public agencies must take to ensure that all children receive appropriate services – these services can start as early as age 3, and last until your child graduates high school at age 21. For more information on these stages, please click here to read our blog “Back To School: A Look at Special Education in 2014.” You may also wish to read up on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Individualized Plan for Employment (IPEs), and transitioning services – all which take place during this important stage in your child’s life.
Level 3: Age 22 and Beyond
Well, it happened! You work up one morning, and your little girl/boy was all grown up. What now? Once your child has aged out of the school system, finding the right services and supports may be a little more complicated. Don’t worry, though – here is a brief step-by-step guide to how to tackle these concerns.
1.) Government benefits: It is very important to secure government benefits for your child – specifically Supplemental Security Income (SSI) & Medicaid and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Medicare. Are you unsure of how to do this? Contact us! We have a 100% success rate with helping families apply for these benefits for the last two years.
2.) Post Secondary: Post-secondary options will have been addressed during the transitioning phase of your child’s IEP, where your child’s IEP team should have identified steps to help your child reach his or her vocational goal. You may also wish to look into Vocational Rehabilitation, or Supported Employment. For more information, please click here to access our employment blog archive, here to learn about an important workshop that M&L can host in your area, or here to learn how M&L can help your family member with special needs achieve employment.
3.) Independent Living: This one is a little tricky; individuals have spent years on waiting lists for government programs. Unfortunately, many parents can’t wait that long – as a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the need to know that your child will be taken care of after you are gone. Our unique Independent Living Program and Housing Project online database is a one-stop resource for all housing programs, grants, funding, etc. Or, if you would like to create your own housing for your family member with special needs, down to customizing the types and levels of services and support that your child will have, join our non-profit, ILO.
Would You Like More Information?
Thank you so much for joining us today! We hoped that we have provided you with some valuable information or insight into obtaining the right services and supports for your child with disability and family with special needs. If you have any questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to contact us! As financial and life planners, we are equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to help you navigate any stage of your special needs journey. For more information on special needs financial and life planning in general, please browse our website, and read through our blogs, or give us a call!
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