While the special needs population continues to grow, government funding is decreasing. In late March 2012, the CDC announced that 1 in 88 children have autism, and a research study estimated the annual cost of autism in the United States is $126 billion, more than triple the amount in 2006. And that’s just one diagnosis.
The bulk of special needs expenses are actually for adult care. While many medical and social advances have enabled individuals with special needs to live longer and with better quality, parents are often faced with the challenge of caring for their children even after they have passed away.
Teens with autism and other diagnoses are going to soon age out of the educational system, where many of their needs are provided, and the nation is not ready for what is next.
The cost and toll of caregiving for a special needs child is extreme, and it affects everything from family life to marriage. Many parents feel overwhelmed, and the day-to-day activities of doctor’s visits, therapies, school, IEP meetings, on top of other typical parental duties can be stressful and disheartening. Parents put a great deal of effort of getting their kids through school that they are often hit with the “what’s next” question too suddenly.
Finding suitable housing and social interaction experiences for adults with special needs is a challenge, and since fewer and fewer government-supported organizations are available for the growing adult special needs population, the onus of caring for these adults often falls once again on the parents.
What is happening more often now is groups of parents banding together to buy a community house or apartment for their children. Still other parents are nervous about the future.
It’s never too early to plan, and asking for help along the way might be the best option for helping prepare your family for the future of their special needs care.
Photo by Mandell JCC