Our story

Our experiences and services used for our special needs young adult son. Also a sister blog to our caregiving & caring for elderly parents.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Financial Planning for a Special Needs Child.

I am not a legal professional and laws may vary from state to state. Please speak with a professional in your area for the rules and regulations that would apply. The following is just general information that I have come across which may or may not apply to your family situation.
Frank & I have been going over what to do, planning for Will as he starts into adulthood and adult services. We have consulted with a local attorney since we heard of 'special needs trusts'. I found out about it from another mom during a workshop. She gave me the name of her attorney and we met. Trusts, as far as my understanding goes, do not affect SSI payments or any services the special needs child/adult is getting. Social Security Administration said the same when I asked - it is not counted in their assets, even if you have a large sum of money there. The thought was that a 'pooled trust' is best. From the website of "Plan of Massachusetts and RI" (which is the group she suggested had the best plan for us) comes the definition: There are two different types of pooled Special Needs Trusts based on who “owns” the money that funds the trust. If the money belongs to the trust beneficiary, it will go into the MARC Special Needs Pooled Trust. The MARC Special Needs Pooled Trust is funded with assets belonging to the disabled individual, often obtained through an inheritance, personal injury settlement, or personal savings. If the money belongs to someone other than the trust beneficiary, it will be put into the PLAN of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Third Party Special Needs Pooled Trust. The PLAN Third-Party Special Needs Pooled Trust is funded with assets belonging to families or other third parties to benefit a person with a disability. The third-party trust can be funded immediately or in the future through an estate or life insurance. A trust with a group of people as trustee was the best plan since that way, our other sons (especially if they are not in the area) do not have to worry about paying Willie's bills that are not covered by his services. The group overseeing this trust would also take care of any paperwork, tax filings, etc., of course for a fee. What has stopped us at the moment, is that while we can set this up and not fund it, once it is funded then the fees start. Taking a look as to who may be putting money into this in the future, we fear - in our situation - that the fees would eat up the money in a short period of time. So right now, we are holding off doing this. Another website, "M & L Special Needs Planning" out of the Washington, DC area, offers some areas of concern that you may want to investigate for yourself, talking to a local professional. At my meeting, we did not address # 3. 1 - A Comprehensive Special Needs Financial Life Plan 2 - Government Benefit Counseling 3 - Insurance Needs Analysis Planning This website also provides some interesting statistics: Reasons for Special Needs Financial Life Plans -- Nearly 54 Million Americans cope with special needs and the rising associated expenses, according to the National Organization on Disability. Nearly one-fifth of all Americans—more than 54 million men, women and children— have a physical, sensory or intellectual disability, according to the National Organization on Disability. More than 41 million Americans, or almost 15% of the population age 5 and older, have some type of disability; according to 2007 Census survey data. Some 6.2% of children ages 5 to 15, or 2.8 million kids, have disabilities, the Census Bureau found. The U.S. Census Bureau says about 20% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 64 suffer some form of physical, mental or emotional impairment. Many of them are outliving their parents thanks to improved care medical technology. Over 75 percent of special needs adults are without employment (Grassi, S.G. Special Planning is Needed for Families with a Special-Needs Child. Journal of Practical Estate Planning, 39-51) Households containing at least one family member with a mental disability are also marked by the highest poverty rate, 32 percent, within the U.S. (Erickson, W., & Lee, C. Disability Status Report: United States.) The need is there to plan, this is something we can all agree on, but what type of plan is best will be best determined by a discussion with a professional who is familiar with looking long term and who knows the laws. As the attorney I spoke to said, if we wanted to speak to someone else - no problem; just make sure that person knows the rules and regulations and most of all the language that is used to set the trust up. It is specialized, especially since you do not want it interfering with any income and/or services that are being provided to your son or daughter. If you do set a trust up, anyone wanting to give money to the trust does exactly that -- writes the check, leaves an inheritance or life insurance money TO THE TRUST, not to the person. Even birthday money has the trust's name on the check. This trust plan is a good idea - make sure it is a good idea for your family.

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DRS

Department of Rehabilitative Services:

Updating the family calender, I am reminded of Will's IEP/transition meeting coming up in January. Seeing that, I have to go through his file of 'stuff' I have already started to apply for and/or need to update - to bring with me so I can find out what the next steps will be. He leaves school this next December - on to bigger and better things.

I find in the handouts from the transition seminar, information on our Office of Rehabilitative Services (ORS). The national website is under the Department of Education. The office offers career planning for students with disabilities, they help prepare eligible people to prepare for and obtain employment. Each person is assigned a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor who helps the individual and his/her family to make good choices in their planning.

The VR counselor offers assistance in a variety of ways: *providing career information
*assisting in choosing employment goals, services, and training
*develops an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
*provides information on programs and services for transitioning
*helps with guidance and counseling
*vocational assessment & community job trials
*on-the-job training
* ETC

You need to apply to ORS. Ask your child's teacher who from ORS is assigned to your school and a parent or guardian MUST attend the meeting if the child is under 18 years old. If the counselor determines that a vocational assessment is needed, arrangements may be made through school and done during school hours. The results will be shared with family, school personnel, an evaluation team and the counselor - all can help the student develop career goals.
ORS may even help pay for post-secondary training, certification, license, or college degree, books, supplies, specialized tools - you get the picture. It may even go as far as helping to pay for bus transportation and gas. Assistive technology can possibly be included or software if needed for a computer to complete assignments.

ORS offers a lot of help and direction for those getting ready to transition out into the work world. Make sure you contact your local office or school for any information you may need.

Michael Garcia

Three Cheers for Michael Garcia!!!

(Milo's picture from 'Today Moms' website)

I came across a story on "Today Moms" about a waiter in a restaurant in Texas who defended a 5 year old boy with Downs Syndrome. Milo was at the restaurant with his family, who are regulars, and was showing off his new words and telling Michael Garcia, the waiter, about his birthday. At another table nearby was another family who are also regulars. They asked to move away from Milo's family and a man sitting there said 'special needs children need to be special somewhere else'. To which Michael replied 'I am not going to be able to serve you Sir.' YES!! Good for you!!! More people should be like you Michael.

Michael was afraid he would lose his job but more people have been turning up at the restaurant to shake his hand. There have been lots of postings on the restaurant's Facebook page. The family has been going there for so long, Milo and Michael even have a special way of going to their table when the family arrives -- Michael always carried Milo.

As many other families, they have had their share of stares and parents pulling their children away from Milo when out, like on a playground. We too had something similar happen when Will was young. He was about 4 and we went to a family type of restaurant, sat down next to a party of 4-5. Will, who is autistic, is non-verbal and back then had no way to communicate except to make a noise (AH-AH or similar) when he wanted something. A woman at that table told us we should leave him at home and that she too had special needs children and they would never act that way when out. My mother got on her 'grandmother high horse' and told that woman if she didn't like the noise, feel free to move to another table on the other side of the restaurant - her grandson is fine and that's the only way he can express himself whether she liked it or not!! The wait staff kept on serving us and was attentive to Will. We're going back probably 16 years ago, so keep doing what they were doing was probably comparable to a member of the waitstaff standing up to a customer.

They stayed put but were not happy and the evil looks continued.

We can only hope that this ignorance will someday disappear. As Milo's mom puts it “Maybe next time they’ll think twice before they utter those words or say something derogatory about somebody else.”

iPad Communication

I attended an iPad workshop that Will's teacher had told me about. It was given by a local company, Tech Access, that evaluates and gives special needs students communication devices to use while in school and to take home during this time as well. There were only a few of us there but this seems to be a useful tool for those specializing in Speech Therapy and are teacher assistants working with special needs students (one other person was a parent).

While the instructor went over all the basics of how to set it, use it, make folders, delete icons, etc., we did touch upon some apps that are good for special needs. Going through the App Store can take time - as he said - you really have to be specific or you get thousands of results. There are free apps and those with a small fee, as well as those that can cost upwards to $200.00 (US dollars). The program we use for Willie is called 'Assistive Chat' which I think was about $35.oo US dollars. Others at the workshop were using 'Proloquo2Go' which runs about $200.00 It depends on what your child can do -- "Assistive Chat" is more for someone who can type and knows words; Prologuo has pictures that you can use along with words. One way to help with this dilemma is to go to AppShopper. This is NOT connected to Apple. There you will find a lot of apps for iPads and iPhones as well as Macs, along with their price changes (if applicable), new apps, app updates. Check it out - great site!! One drawback, even on the 'iTunes store', is that the majority of apps are for younger children, not high school. Even though he does work like a younger student, the pictures and manner of presentation is too young for him. So if you have a pre-schooler or elementary aged child -- you are good to go!!

One good one for those who like to 'see' the results of an action -- 'Songify'. Speak or breath into your Android device and the app will turn the action into a song.

Also, he mentioned a website called 'Moms with Apps'. While this site will include all sorts of apps for all varieties of skills and needs, it also invites app developers to share their programs -- see "App Friday". I checked out 'App Resources for Special Needs', went to 'Mashable article on iPads and disabilities' and not only found apps for children but a couple of them for seniors: one memory practice one that was created by someone who's mom has Alzheimer's and two for medication reminders (though one was NOT available in the US store). You can check out a previous post regarding 'Tech Items for Seniors' that had ideas from 'Senior Savvy' regarding the same.

Of course YouTube has everything!!! The instructor was talking about different types of a stylus pen for people who cannot type and have a hard time holding onto a pen - type device. Of course you can buy one but you can also make your own. Check out a variety of YouTube videos to make one. TechAccess also has instructions.

Spend some time in the 'iTunes store' and the 'AppShopper'. Check with your child's teacher and speech therapist so see what will be good. Find a workshop in your area. Time well spent!



Will's New iPad for Communicating.

We picked up an iPad for Will this weekend and downloaded 'Assistive Chat' for him as his communication program. There were 3 choices for a voice output, so I played each for him and let him choose - one was male, one female and one 'mechanical' for lack of a better word: Ryan, Kenny and Heather. He chose Ryan.

There were choices for the voice output to 'speak' every letter, word or sentence when done - we chose the latter. As a person types, there are predictive words that come up, so you really do not need to spell the entire word - just tap the appropriate tab.

As per usual, Will has attempted NOT to use it - this is his usual M.O. When something is new, he puts off using it, especially when he feels there is no need. "Mom knows what I am talking about!", I am sure this goes through his head - which I do but a lot of people who don't know Will's version of sign, have no clue what he is saying and THIS is what he needs to be prepared for.

I think once he gets to school and can see the other ones that are being used, he'll get into it. He is also more apt to follow his teacher's constant request to use it, rather than ours.


Getting Excited About Communicating the 'i' Way.

Today we had our transition meeting regarding how things stand for Will - what we need to do, who we need to contact, etc., since he will be done with school in December of this year. It seems we are on-track, no additional school testing needs to be done, unless some social service agency needs it. Right now, we wait to hear from one agency; we are not sure if we need it since he has been given a case worker at another one similar in mission. Vocational assessment will probably be done in the summer.

Anyway - I spoke with his teacher and asked about an iPad for Will to use instead of his current communication device. (See older post - "Communication Devices"). She was all for it; he had experimented with another student's a short time ago and Kerry said it went well - he learned it quickly and handled the touch screen keyboard nicely. So we will be getting one soon.
(picture of Will's teacher's book)


Kerry also gave me a book to look at in the meantime. I figured we would be going with the app "Assistive Chat" but "Sentence & Question Builder" looked good too, maybe a nice sister app. The book she gave me is called "Apps for Autism" by Lois Jean Brady M.A.,CCC-SLP, , 2011 by Future Horizons. You buy the apps from the 'iTunes' store. The book has over 200 apps that help improve communication, behavior, social skills, etc.

(Steve Jobs picture from iPad Wikipedia)



The book covers A LOT of information. Lois discusses how technology is changing so fast. As she puts it: 'New mobile technologies for people with autism are creating new opportunities at an exponential rate. The message is that we can create tools that can make profound differences in the trajectory of people's lives and in education in general'. 'Thank you Apple! Finally, devices that support communication, scheduling, academics, social interactions, video modeling, and leisure time are wrapped up in hand-held, super, cool packages. Individuals who cannot use a mouse or keyboard can use the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch because there is no disconnect between the screen and the keyboard/mouse.' As she also states, there is a big difference in price between the older communication devices (which can run $8 - 10,000 dollars and take months to come in after ordering) and the new Apple products that run more or less around $500 and have apps that you download and use right away. Yes - there may be a charge for some apps, some are FREE. Still, it's a whole lot LESS money. I would suggest you speak with your child's teacher and speech/language person to discuss good options.

I AM NOT PROMOTING ONE DEVICE OVER ANOTHER. JUST SHARING WHAT I AM READING AND OBSERVATIONS AND WHAT I AM THINKING!!!!!!

I just want to mention some of the categories in the book and some of the apps. The book gives current app prices (prices may change over time) and gives website addresses for each app so you can look it up. I checked out a few. One I could not find, nothing came up, but the others looked great.

There are 12 categories in the book, each with plenty of apps to choose from. I'll just list a few -- apps to get the word(s) out; sign language; articulation; concept development; hygiene & pre-vocational; graphic organizers & visual supports. Apps are: autism shapes, small talk letters, numbers, colors; idress for weather; uzu; body language; is that glutten free?.

I highly suggest you try to find the book ($29.95 US if you want to buy it). I think Kerry said you can find all the apps on the iTunes store if you have an account and they constantly add more. I can't wait to try Will's!!! Our work is set out for us this weekend. I would love to hear from anyone out there using these already - give me/us your feedback -- please!!!!!

Robots help kids with autism.

Robots Help Children with Autism:
There is a school in England using robots to help reach their students with autism. The robots vary in style but researchers are finding that over time, the boys and girls are opening up. The researchers find that the children feel comfortable around these robots because they are predictable since autistic people have a hard time understanding facial expressions. These children also have a hard time with touching - some of the robots are covered in silicone patches to feel like skin. There is another version looking more like the traditional robot that moves and dances. Researchers are also hoping to increase communication and social skills.
In the case of the robots looking like children, some of the students are imitating its responses. A scientist controls the robot and will make it laugh, frown, blink, or wave its arms. Some children are starting to react to its movements by saying what it is doing - like 'happy' or 'sad' when they recognize a facial expression. As well as things are going, they are warning that parents should not rely on these robots totally since autistic people still have to deal with the real world. Also there needs to be more studies on how this will work over time.You can read the following stories from a variety of locations regarding this great idea.Now Dancing Robots to Teach Autistic KidsRobots'>http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41967936/ns/health-mental_health/t/robot-teaches-autistic-kids-interact/">Robots Teach Autistic Kids to InteractRobot'>http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/09/robot-helps-autistic-kids_n_833321.html">Robot Helps Autistic Kids

Transition and work


As I continue to do the paperwork and contact the appropriate agencies for help, I am also looking at agencies that help find work. There are several. There are companies that hire people with disabilities; my list is for those looking for something else.

I also think of an agency that interviews the person, their family and friends to see what he/she might be interested in doing on their own. I like that idea. This started me thinking, my husband would say 'look out' or 'I could smell that smoke', about possible types of jobs that could be considered a business that they could do, work from home or a family business. I understand they cannot make a lot of money due to SSI regulations so it would be part-time/on a small scale. These can also be done using a mentor. There are agencies that have folks who want to mentor a challenged child/adult or use a Best Buddies person.

Here are some possibilities - just ideas I toss around in my head especially after I leave a place or talk to someone who owns a business:

*bake cookies or cakes to sell to friends or family (this one came up during a seminar - someone's son was doing it and loved it);
*walk a dog/take care of a pet for neighbors or family;
*work with a local small business -- we go to a local car repair business, I think a small 'stand' could be set up selling coffee and snacks, on a Saturday for instance. After visiting mom at the nursing home and hospital, how about working with a local gift shop setting up a place on the weekends selling some items or take some items from the hospital gift shop around to some floors and help sell. The young businessman or woman keeps a percentage of what they sell. At nursing homes, they can sell on weekends or family nights;
*collect scrap metal, cans and/or bottles and sell them. They would be helping the environment as well;
*if they are artistic do some art work and place it in local businesses;
**this one I had started trying to work out a plan to do for Will and maybe a few others in his group (or for his work group in school) but due to family illnesses and my work gearing up I did not get far. I still think it is viable. The idea came from my mother actually -- she was commenting on how she has a hard time getting to the cemetery to put flowers on family graves. So what about a business where people can go for them? They advertise in churches, funeral homes; they charge a straight fee to order either fresh or artificial flowers or a flag; who goes can clean the stone a bit and maybe say a prayer. Take a picture to show their client what it looks like.