For the parent of a child with autism, estate planning may take on a heightened importance. Special needs planning may need to be incorporated into your estate plan if your child is on the autism spectrum. As the parent of a child with autism, making sure that your child continues to be well cared for after you are gone is undoubtedly one of your most important estate planning goals. If you already have a special needs plan in place, April is a great time to review that plan in honor of Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society began sponsoring Autism Awareness Month over two decades ago in an “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.” This April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, make it a point to learn something new about autism and make an appointment to review your estate plan.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism continues to be shrouded in mystery. With no consensus as to the cause, and no cure, much remains unknown about autism. What is known, however, is that autism is not really a single disorder, but a broad spectrum of disorders. For this reason, autism is more accurately referred to as “autism spectrum disorder” and defined as “a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.” A child at the high functioning end of the spectrum can easily be overlooked and written off as shy, introverted, or simply lacking in social skills. At the severe end of the spectrum, however, a child may clearly exhibit many of the traditional signs of autism.
How Does a Parent Know If a Child Has Autism?
With the rate of autism diagnosis reaching near epic proportions in the United States in recent years, parents want a way to know if their child has the disorder. The only way to know, with certainty, that your child is on the autism spectrum is to have the child tested by a professional. There are, however, some signs to look for when a child is young, including:
- 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
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Sensory sensitivities
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
What You Might Not Know about Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is not a new disorder; however, medical professionals are learning new things about the disorder on a regular basis. For example, did you know that one out of every 68 children is now diagnosed with autism and that boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls? People often think of children with autism and never speaking when, in reality, only about 40 percent of children with autism do not speak. Another 25–30 percent of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them while yet another group of children never speak.
Special Needs Planning and your Autistic Child
If your child is on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, your child will likely continue to need assistance from state and federal programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as an adult. As a parent, however, you may also want to contribute to your child’s care. Doing so, however, could jeopardize eligibility for those assistance programs. The solution can be found in special needs planning. Special needs planning can help you ensure that your child has everything he/she needs without jeopardizing eligibility for much needed assistance programs.
If you have questions or concerns about special needs planning, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.