Julia shines spotlight on special needs

It has been almost ten years, but on April 10th, Sesame Street will introduce a new muppet to its neighborhood. Joining Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch will be Julia, the first-ever muppet with autism.

Julia was first introduced two years ago in a digital storybook story called “Sesame Street and Autism: See the Amazing in All Children.” According to Sesame Street, Julia is “a shy and winsome 4-year old, with striking red hair and green eyes” and will debut alongside Elmo and Abby, as they introduce Julia to Big Bird.

Sesame Street is building on its campaign started in 2015 and is making a concerted effort to raise awareness about autism. Autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control, effects 1 in 68 American children.

As a financial advisor, I am thrilled with Sesame Street’s efforts and am eagerly awaiting Julia’s debut. And while I hope it raises awareness in autism, I’m equally hopeful that it raises awareness for all children with special needs. Because while autism effects 1 in 68 American children, the number of children receiving special education services was 6.5 million – or about 1 and 7. And the number for the total population is even more startling.

According to the National Organization on Disability:

  • More than 54 million men, women and children – have a physical, sensory or intellectual disability. And many of them are outliving their parents.

  • Over 75 percent of special needs adults are without employment.
  • Households containing at least one family member with a mental disability are also marked by the highest poverty rate at a staggering 32%, mostly due to the ever-rising health care costs.

Special Needs Financial Planning is Different

The typical financial planning process is pretty straightforward. In crazily simple terms, it involves gathering data, establishing goals, designing a plan, implementing said plan and re-evaluating periodically.

But for families with special needs children – as well as older special needs members – while the process is similar, there are a lot more things to consider.

For example, did you know that families with special-needs children under age 18 generally aren’t eligible for Medicaid unless they have very low assets and income (the age-cutoffs vary by state)?

Or did you know that once your child turns 18, the government will consider your child’s assets separately from your assets when determining eligibility for Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid?

Did you know that you can (should) establish a special needs trust before you sign up for SSI and Medicaid benefits? A special needs trust can essentially hold assets for the child without them counting as the child’s assets – a key point when applying for SSI or Medicaid.

Have you established a written letter of intent that documents the future care for your child?

Have you decided whether you should petition the court to become your child’s guardian when he/she turns 18?

You’re Not Alone

If you answered any of these questions with a “no,” then don’t worry, you are in the majority. In fact, 88% of parents who have children with special needs have not set up a special needs trust; 84% have not written a letter of intent outlining the future care of their child; and 72% have not named a trustee to handle a child’s finances.

Every Child is Different – So is Every Financial Plan

Your child is unique and so is your family. As such, there really is not a one-size fits all financial plan because there are just too many variables to consider.

Give me a call so that we can list all your variables, discuss your options, and then build an informed – and personalized – financial plan for you and your entire family.

I look forward to helping you in any way I can.

And I look forward to watching Julia’s debut.