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The Cost of Raising a Special Needs Child

special needs child

Everyone knows that it’s expensive to raise a child, but the cost of raising a special needs child can be far greater. At any one time, nearly 9 million American families are actively caring for children with special needs.  Consider this: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising an average child to the age of 18 is roughly $240,000, which is certainly a lot of money. Autism Speaks estimates that the lifetime cost for an individual with autism and/or intellectual disability averages $1.4 -$2.4 million.

For children with medical and/or developmental disabilities, lifetime expenses for the family to raise and care for their child can be overwhelming. Children with special needs often have medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, respite, and caregiver expenses. None of these expenses take into account the equipment that is needed for families, homes, and the children to function comfortably. Some of these expenses are covered by insurance, and some are not.

Research shows that children with disabilities are significantly more likely to live in families that are considered to be poor. In fact, it is estimated that 28% of U.S. children with disabilities lived below the federal poverty threshold, as contrasted with 16% of children without disabilities.

The good news is that there is assistance available for families raising a special needs child. Assistance can come from both state and federal programs.

Resources for families of a special needs child

With all of the expense and stress families experience caring for a special needs child, there is also a signficant need for accessible financial education among families to help combat some of these harsh realities. There are steps individuals and families can take to maximize benefits, reduce expenses, save for the future, and obtain additional funding necessary to care for the needs of your child.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Apply for all programs available, even if you’re not sure your child qualifies.
  • Apply early for programs that you may need in the future since many programs have long waiting lists.
  • If services are denied, appeal, as many of these programs deny the majority of applicants the first time around.
  • Stand up for yourself when it comes to insurance. Some insurers will deny claims in hopes that you will not go through the hassle of appealing.
  • Use Tax benefits: You may be able to open a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account to pay for non-reimbursed medical expenses tax free. If your expenses are more than 7.5% of your income, you can deduct them from your taxes directly.
  • Plan ahead and get expert help. There are financial planners who specialize in special needs.
  • Consider a resource such as The Special Needs Planning Guide to help you get started.

The bottom line is that if you are caring for a special needs child, you need to have all the support you can get – financially and in every other way. Get help learning as much as you can about managing your finances and making wise money choices. Make sure you find all the available resources in your city and state, and be sure that you are getting all the benefits available to you.

 

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