5 Ways to Prepare for Your Special Needs Child’s Future

Man in Wheelchair on a Winding Road

June: It’s the time of year for caps and gowns, diplomas, summer internships and job hunting. Graduation season can be bittersweet, signifying the transition from childhood to adulthood; Parents may feel that their children’s futures are full of promise.  But for students with disabilities and their parents, graduation may inspire more fear and uncertainty than hope and excitement. Disabilities experts say that the best way to minimize those emotions is by planning for your child’s future. As you establish a plan, here are some points to keep in mind.

 Start early
According to All About Developmental Disabilities.com, a nonprofit serving individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, “It is never too early to start planning for the future. From the beginning of your child’s life, try to keep a vision in front of you of their life at age 25.  This vision may change over time, but you should have one.”

Be open-minded
If you’re like most parents, you didn’t anticipate having a child with disabilities. You may have held fantasies about your child’s future — the sports they would play, where they would go to college, what sort of career they would pursue, etc. Once your child’s disabilities came to light, you probably experienced a period of mourning.  Eventually, you came to accept your new reality and to appreciate your child’s unique gifts. Focus on learning as much as you can about the options that will best meet your child’s needs and desires.

Create a financial plan
Special Needs Financial Planning.com recommends parents take the following steps as soon as their child is born. These include:
– Identifying and prioritizing goals
– Making a list of assets vs. expenses
– Calculating the sum of personal and government resources to determine whether the combination will be enough to meet financial goals. If not, create a plan to increase your resources.
– Reviewing and monitoring your financial plan regularly

Explore educational/vocational training opportunities for adults with special needs
If your child is a teenager who attends high school, start by talking with the school guidance counselor. If your child attends a special education school, the counselor is probably well-versed on academic and vocational programs in your area. You can also check out local chapters of such organizations as United Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals and The Arc. Many of these organizations have vocational programs for young adults. If not, they may be able to direct you to other resources. Local community colleges can be another great resource. Most have classes geared toward students with special needs or at least offer services to help those students to succeed.

Create a job for your young adult
Though it isn’t an option for everyone, parents with means have been known to start their own businesses to ensure that their young adult with special needs will have a good job when he or she reaches adulthood. Some of these businesses make it a point to hire other young adults with special needs. Here are just a few of these innovative establishments: Sam’s Canterbury Café in Baltimore, Sweet Heat Jam Co. in Katy, Texas and Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in Wilmington, North Carolina.