In 2021, around 19% of people with disabilities were employed, representing a 1% increase from 2020. While this rise is positive, it definitely needs improvement since people with disabilities are far less likely to work than those without one across all age groups.
They are also less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree. If you are a parent of a child with a disability, it is important to help them feel empowered from the start so they can engage in work or dedicate themselves to their life’s passion.
Start by adopting the following strategies.
Getting an Early Diagnosis
Starting treatment early with some disabilities and disorders—including autism, speech and language issues, and cerebral palsy—can help your child make big improvements.
If you notice signs that your child might be developing differently from other children their age, then seeking a diagnosis is vital. There are many useful online tests that can help you decide if a visit to the doctor may be warranted, and these tests tend to be divided by age.
For instance, a typical cerebral palsy test divides quizzes into 6-9 months, 10-15 months, and 16-24 months, so you can measure your child’s milestones and determine if a formal consultation is required.
In cases like cerebral palsy, the initial damage to the brain may not be reversible. Still, early treatments can help improve function and help make adjustments to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Obtaining Legal Help
If medical negligence or malpractice could have contributed to your child’s disability, seeking legal recourse is vital.
Research indicates, for instance, that up to 35% of all cerebral palsy cases could have been prevented. By the same token, your child may need assistance throughout your lifetime.
Pursuing your legal rights is a way of ensuring they will not want for anything when you are no longer around.
Choosing the Best School for Your Child
As a parent, you have to make the important decision of whether to enroll your child in a school for children with special needs or put them through regular schooling. Each option has its ups and downs.
Many parents of kids with disabilities want their child to attend ‘regular school’ because this enables them to deal with a wide array of kids, both with and without special needs.
On the other hand, if you opt for a regular school, it is important that it has the accommodations your child needs, equipment, and facilities that can benefit your child, and that the staff is experienced in formulating and carrying out Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
To assess your child for an IEP, a number of professionals may be involved. These include teachers, psychologists, different therapists, special needs educators, vision/hearing specialists, and more.
Encouraging Your Child to Adopt a ‘Yes’ Mentality
Encourage your child to become involved in a wide array of pursuits—from volunteering (think beach cleanups, recycling projects, fundraising activities, and more) to start their own business.
Hone in on their talents and encourage them to pursue these and share the fruits of their work with others. Instill a growth mindset in them, letting them know that they can learn and grow from their mistakes, develop new interests, and excel at things they didn’t use to.
Their disability should not define them nor limit the number of activities and hobbies they try out.
Financial Planning for Your Child’s Future
The extent to which you will need to set money aside for your child’s future depends on the amount of assistance they need. Currently, around 38% of working-age people with disabilities are employed, though the percentages vary greatly from state to state.
For instance, in North Dakota, around 57% of disabled people are employed, while in Kentucky, only 30.6% are working. Regardless of your child’s specific disability, planning early can help you (and them) feel more confident about their future. You can set both short- and long-term financial goals that will enable you to grow your funds from the start.
Speak to a financial advisor if possible, so you can invest in plans that are neither too bearish nor bullish. Taking out life insurance can also ensure your child receives a lumpsum payment when you are no longer around.
Setting Up a Special Needs Trust
Setting up a special needs trust for your child will ensure that they can receive income without affecting their eligibility for public assistance. Public assistance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and many Social Security benefits are dependent on income and assets.
However, through a special needs trust, your child can bypass these restrictions. This trust is commonly used to pay for caretakers, medical costs, transportation, and other specific expenses. You will need to pick a trustee who will manage the trust funds in your child's best interests. You can use this trust to leave your home to your child.
Finally, you will also need to draft an airtight will or living trust. This document should indicate the type of property (including your home, business, bank accounts, and personal property).
Choosing Future Accommodation for Your Child
There are many options to consider when choosing future accommodation for your child. Once again, your selection will depend on their desires and the extent to which they are able to live independently.
You may decide to have your child live with you in your family home. In this case, you might decide to construct or design an independent area for them with the accommodations they may require.
Additional options include supported homes, group homes, and buying a home for your child.
Check if your child is entitled to government aid under the Section 811 Housing Program. The latter provides rental assistance for people with disabilities whose earnings fall below a specific threshold.
If you have a child with a disability, be their strongest advocate from the start.
Obtain a diagnosis as early as you can, get legal help if relevant, and choose a school with a supportive team.
Lead by example and encourage your child to try out activities that interest them.
Support their passions and give them the tools they need to pursue them fully.
Finally, make sure you plan for their financial future and accommodation.