New Study Reveals Support Gap For People With Special Needs

United Cerebral Palsy and the ANCOR Foundation released their The Case for Inclusion 2019 report that analyzed how well state programs, especially Medicaid, are meeting the needs of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

New Study Reveals Support Gap For People With Special Needs

The study did find some continued positive changes including the move away from institutions into community living; however, the study also continues to find challenges.

The number of individuals with IDD that have found jobs with market-driven wages continues to drop, while at the same time the number of individuals on waiting lists to receive home and community-based services has risen by 21.5 percent. This phenomenon means that fewer people are able to support themselves financially, and more individuals are not receiving the support they need from state and federal government programs.  As the population of those with IDD, especially diagnosed with autism, continues to grow, our loved ones are in a precarious position.

As we read these studies, and learn these new statistics, it becomes quite clear that families need to take as much control as possible when planning for the lifetime support of their loved one. We must come up with a plan, but in order to develop a plan, a systematic process should be implemented and followed. As families develop their plans, it is important to have some guidelines in place and a process to follow.  Here are some steps to consider:

1. Understand your child’s abilities

Be as honest as you can in this step. If your child (adult or minor) needs prompting regarding personal hygiene or does not understand the concept of money, is challenged by stressful situations, meeting new people is difficult, effective communication is lacking, then it will be important for you to plan to provide support during his/her lifetime. Write down the activities your child thrives in, and those that are extremely challenging.

2. Plan for the worst—work toward the best

Assemble a plan, and coordinate all the appropriate pieces, as if your child will need 100 percent support for his/her lifetime. Continue to work with your child for improvement. In this way, regardless of your child’s needs, he/she will be covered.

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3. Communicate with others

Ensure family members understand their role in your child’s future. Educate these family members on the nuances of your child’s abilities, and on their daily activities. You may want to use a tool called a Letter of Intent for this step. (You can find a template at

4. Find Qualified Professionals to help

It is difficult to do this type of planning on your own due to the high level of expertise in multiple areas including finance, tax, legal, government benefits, communication, future care giving, and then ensuring all these areas are coordinated properly. An experienced Special Needs Planner should be able to guide you in all the areas listed in section 4a.

These four steps will certainly place your family and your loved one in a great position to succeed and to ensure the proper level of support is always provided.

For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by their purpose of leading families to independence through an on-going multi-generational plan. A Special Needs Plan is passionate about families confidently moving forward.

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Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC, ChSNC, is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC, member of SIPC. A Special Needs Plan is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or an endorsement of any products. 

This article was featured in Issue 87 – Building ASD Awareness and Communication

Ryan Platt

Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC, ChSNC, completed his Special Care Planner Certification in 2005 at the American College in Bryn Mawr, PA, in which he received advanced training in estate and tax planning, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people and families with special needs loved ones. In 2013, he went on to complete the Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation. A pioneer in his field, Ryan is one of only a few planners certified through Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and the American College in Special Care Planning in Charlotte. He is the founder of A Special Needs Plan.