Have You Called the Department of Disabilities Yet?
Many times, parents sign their kids up for school, meet with the special education department, then head straight to the supply store and wait for the first day of school. That's a good start, but if you have a child with a disability, you also might want to make a call to the local Department of Disability in your county.
Parents with children who require intense interventions, in some cases, receive services at birth or shortly thereafter. When the child goes to school, the parent continues to receive the much needed assistance.
What about the parents of students who did not require intense interventions right after birth? These parents took their children to school, met with the educators to set goals and accommodations. They did everything they were supposed to do for the children all throughout the school-aged years. Are these parents still able to receive services from the state? The answer may surprise you.
Although parents are busy supporting their children in school, some do not usually think long term. Transition services are planned after graduation, but even then, many times, state or county services are overlooked. Parents of these students could be proactive in making a call to the department to gain an insight as to which services or benefits are available. Depending on a parent's financial situation, the child may not receive any services at all.
However, once a person reaches 18, the guidelines are different. What do I mean by that? I mean that now, all the services will be based on your child's income and not on the household income. This is important because it allows for certain benefits, if eligible, such as Medicaid, transportation, mental health counseling, job coaches, life coaches, and independent living services just to name a few.
If you have not already registered your child, parents are encouraged to at least make the call. I was very apprehensive myself. I thought that I would teach my kid to work and be independent. It wasn't until one day when I needed transportation for him that I made the call to the bus station. It was there that a friendly lady told me how I could apply for transportation services dedicated to the disabled. Wow! Why did I wait so long?
It is OK to ask for help
Many times, parents want to help but carry the burden themselves. Realistically speaking, we need a plan in place in the event of a horrible situation. Parents like me tend to think we can make the proper arrangements, but I think we all want our kids to become independent. We work and strive for that each day. Yes, applying for benefits does provide a certain amount of dependency, but not for us, for our kids. It can also pave the way for success.
This blog post was important to me because I know quite a few parents who have children with a disability but not a severe disability. In most cases, the children cannot drive or even stay home alone, but they can learn and they can work. Further, the parents make a good living, so they do not qualify for state assistance. While that is understood, and we would not want to abuse the system, eventually, these parents would like their child to live independently.
I encourage parents of children with a disability to simply make the call to find out what if any benefits are available for their child. We concentrate so much on the schools and education for our children, but once our kids reach a certain age we find ourselves re-thinking the strategies.
I am not supporting anyone's effort to ask the state to take care of their kids. I am just letting parents know that if they are in need of assistance for their child, don't get discouraged, there might be alternatives.
C.C. Malloy is a disability advocate and steadfast supporter of special needs children. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. Please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.