An Awesome Program For Special Needs Families

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Thanks to ABLEnow for sponsoring this post.

In December of 2011, my youngest son, Lucas, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It came as no surprise to me since there were numerous red flags that had caused me to seek an Autism diagnosis in the first place, the most alarming of which was the loss of language he had acquired his first couple years of life. Those preschool years were filled with hours of research and therapies, all aimed at helping Lucas develop basic self-help, language and social skills. Now that he is in elementary school (3rd grade!!) the focus is on helping him catch up academically, develop more complex social skills and caring for his emotional and mental well-being.

I’ve also started thinking more about the future and what that will look like for him. I get asked if he will ever go to college, live on his own, and have a family and the truth is I don’t know. I hope he is able to and that is what we are working towards but, even though he is considered ‘high-functioning’, there are still many daily tasks that he needs assistance with and many other skills he has yet to master. He’s come so far in the past several years so I’m hopeful for his future but, in other ways, we’ve had new challenges and new diagnoses this past year that have made things even more difficult in some aspects. (While he struggles in so many ways though, I’m proud to share that his peers voted him on student council this year which was a huge win and really meant a lot to him because it showed him that he can achieve anything he wants to!)

Even though I can’t control the unknown future, there are some things I can do in the meantime to ensure financial-peace-of-mind. One of them is setting up an ABLEnow account for him. An ABLEnow account is a tax-advantaged savings account for eligible individuals with disabilities that we can use to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses related to maintaining Lucas’ health, independence and quality of life. It provides a greater sense of financial independence and a reliable tool to build the best life possible.

These accounts are now possible thanks to the ABLE Act that was signed into law in December of 2014. Before the Act was passed, people with disabilities could not save for the future out of fear of losing their public benefits which is sad because people were basically being forced to stay in poverty and could never get ahead. Thanks to the ABLE Act and the new ABLEnow program (a national ABLE savings program offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia), eligible individuals can save and invest in a simple, affordable and tax-advantaged ABLEnow account without jeopardizing their eligibility for certain benefits that are critical to their health and well-being, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). ABLEnow empowers people with disabilities to achieve more independence, greater financial security and a better quality of life.

Learn more about ABLEnow in the video below. (It’s important to note that ABLEnow, one of the country’s premier ABLE programs, is administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia, but available to eligible individuals in any U.S. state – whether your home state has an ABLE program or not.)

The ABLE National Resource Center offers a helpful comparison tool for state ABLE programs here so you can compare the programs for yourself but I feel like ABLEnow has such good advantages, like low fees and the ABLEnow debit card at no additional cost, that it’s worth looking into regardless of where you live. I also like that anyone can contribute to a loved one’s ABLEnow account. Contributions make an excellent gift for birthdays or holidays and won’t jeopardize much-needed disability benefits.

Have questions about the program that I haven’t answered? Check out ABLEnow’s FAQ section. If you want to open an account you can do so here (and good news busy moms and dads, it’s easy and quick to open and can all be managed online!)

Have you heard about the ABLE Act before? How would an ABLEnow account benefit your family member who has a disability?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ABLEnow.

Ability Path’s Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs

I’m excited to share the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs put together by Ability Path. The guide features gift ideas from many bloggers, including a suggestion from me. If you have a child with Special Needs on your “to buy for” list you have to check this guide out.

You can find the Holiday Gift Guide here. Enjoy! :)

 

Help Another Parent Out {Quote}

via Autism United

Know  a parent with a child who has special needs? I’m sure that something as simple as a phone call or an offer to help will mean so much to them this holiday season!

Holding On- A Guest Post For Caretakers Of Those With Disabilities

This is an excerpt from Caroline McGraw’s book for caregivers, Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive). To receive your complimentary copy of the book via email, visit Caroline’s blog for caregivers, A Wish Come Clear.

Pitfall #7: Holding On

I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be: letting a babysitter watch your kids, letting them go off to school, to college, to the wider world. Add to that a child with a physical or intellectual disability, and the letting-go gets even more difficult. To let go, to trust another person with your child or sibling? It may seem impossible. Yet, it’s also extremely valuable, both for you and the person you love and care for.

I remember riding with my parents the first time we dropped my brother Willie off for a respite weekend. He’d be spending two days with a group in a local hotel, going to game nights and swimming in the pool. I knew that Willie would have a great time. Even so, I felt a rush of protectiveness and near-panic as he exited the car. I kept feeling a need to check on him, to make sure he was all right. I could tell that my mom felt this need even more than I did. Though she’d met the staff and talked to my brother extensively and prepared long lists of Willie’s routines and double-checked his food, clothes and medication supplies, she still felt anxious. She’d done all she could, but it all felt so insignificant as he disappeared from our sight. We all wanted to hold on to him as we drove away.

After that experience, I understand why one woman I know literally left the country after her brother came to L’Arche [a faith-based non-profit organization that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life in community, where I served as a caregiver for five years]. She knew that, if she stayed within driving distance, she’d be sure to meddle with his care. As my mother did for my brother, this woman made extensive preparations to ensure that her brother would be well cared-for. However, when the moment to let go of her brother’s care came, she felt a strong temptation to hold on.

I’ve met other families who have held on to their children tightly over the years. They continue to treat their adult sons and daughters as children. These parents are holding on to their role as primary caregivers, even as their sons and daughters are trying to make a new home and new life for themselves. It’s always difficult to watch this dynamic, and even more challenging to be a care provider in the middle of it. The adult child in this situation has a choice: they can either rebel against their parents’ holding on, or comply with it…and feel guilty for feeling stifled. Most people choose the latter.

To parents, it can seem as though holding on in this way will keep their child safe. When I watched my brother walk into the hotel, I wanted nothing more than a promise that he would be all right. I wanted a guarantee, even though I know better. There are no guarantees. We can only know that, by holding on too tightly to those we love, we are not loving them as we should. As Martha Beck writes in Steering By Starlight: “The goal of real love is always to set the beloved free.”

We cannot wait for a time when we feel perfectly safe to open our hands.

***

Caroline McGraw is a would-be “childhood paleontologist” who digs for treasure in people. She writes about finding meaning in the most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear.

Jacob’s Christmas GIVING List

Jacob is a typical four year old. He sees a commercial. He wants the toy featured. He goes in the toy aisle at the store. He wants this toy and that toy and oh, this one, too.

He started his Christmas list months ago and it includes more toys than he will ever get. And it keeps on growing and growing {which is partially our fault because they’ve been very spoiled on past holidays}.

My goal this year is to get him to think about how he can give to others and focus on what others might need instead of just what he wants. We started by looking at the World Vision Gift Catalog which is full of gifts we can give to others to truly change their lives. Gifts like cows to feed families, chickens to produce eggs they can eat and sell, and water, something we take for granted everyday. As we looked through the catalog I read him what each thing was and explained why someone would need the gift. For example, there were soccer balls in the gift catalog and I explained that some kids kick around a ball of trash and leaves because they don’t have any balls to kick when they play soccer.

After we looked through the whole thing I asked him what item he would like to buy for someone else.

He took the catalog from me, opened it to the first page and said “2 chicks”.

What happened next surprised me and brought me to tears.

“and a cow. and 3 pigs….” and on he went until I had to grab a paper to remember all he was saying he wanted to give.

And so his Christmas Giving List was created.

When I told him that all of this was a lot of money he suggested we sell his “baby” toys to get the money for all of the things he wanted to give. How sweet is that?

How do you help your children think of ways they can bless others?