The month of April is dedicated as Autism Awareness Month each year in the United States. If you have a child who is on the Autism spectrum, Autism Awareness Month is an excellent time to create a special needs planning component in your estate plan or to update your existing Special Need Trust.
What Is Autism?
According to the Autism Society, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities.
Autism Facts and Figures – Did You Know…
- In 2018 the CDC determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- 1 in 37 boys
- 1 in 151 girls
- Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
- Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.
- 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85), and 44% have IQ scores in the average to above average range (i.e., IQ >85).
- Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
- Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.
- There is no medical detection for autism.
- An estimated one-third of people with autism are nonverbal.
- 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70) with significant challenges in daily function, 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85).
- Nearly half of those with autism wander or bolt from safety.
- On average, autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year through childhood, with the bulk of the costs in special services and lost wages related to increased demands on one or both parents. Costs increase with the occurrence of intellectual disability.
Autism Awareness Month
Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion, and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. As part of that ongoing effort, the month of April is designated as Autism Awareness Month each year. The month-long celebration kicks off on April 2, 2019, the day marked as World Autism Awareness Day. Local, state, and federal governments participate in helping to spread the word about Autism Awareness during April each year as do many schools.
If you wish to show your support, the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is recognized as a symbol of the autism community throughout the world. You can wear the ribbon as a pin on your shirt, attach it as a magnet on your car, add a badge on your blog, or change your Facebook profile picture for the month. You can learn more about the Autism Awareness Ribbon on the Autism Society’s website.
Special Needs Planning
Because Autism is a spectrum disorder, not all children with ASD will need ongoing assistance as an adult. Moreover, those children who do need assistance, the assistance needed will range from very little support to around the clock care. As a parent, you may wish to continue to provide financial assistance to your child long after he/she reaches adulthood. Care must be taken, however, when providing that assistance. Direct gifting is usually not a wise choice because that well-intentioned assistance will likely disqualify your child for state and federal “need-based” assistance programs such as Medicaid, SSI, and Food Stamps. Special needs planning uses estate planning tools and strategies to get around this obstacle and allow you to continue to provide for your child without jeopardizing his/her eligibility for assistance. One of the most commonly used tools in a special needs plan is a special needs trust.
If you have yet to create your special needs planning component within your estate plan, Autism Awareness Month is a perfect opportunity to do so. If you already have a Special Needs Trust in place, now is a good time to review your trust and make any necessary revisions.
Contact Special Needs Planning Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding special needs planning, or you need to update your Special Needs Trust, contact the special needs planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.