Raising a child is no easy feat.  We work hard to provide opportunities, guidance, and protection so that our children have enjoyable and safe lives. It is a blend of agony and worry with joy and love. That is why it is especially important to recognize the many families across the United States with children who live each day with the challenges of a having a child with a developmental disability.  For these parents, the daily responsibility of caring for their children can last well into adulthood or throughout the child’s entire life.

In 2010, per the United States Census Bureau, 2.8 million children were reported to have a disability. As we enter March, we want to highlight the importance of proper estate planning and finding ways to help children with developmental disabilities.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan called for social change as he named March “Developmental Disabilities Month.” President Reagan brought about an evolutionary change for people with disabilities as his movement called for initiatives such as the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

For parents caring for children with disabilities, there are many ways that you can protect your children. Children with disabilities often face hardships such as ridicule, a different education, discrimination and more. Although each situation can be different, as a parent, you can help your kids by following these three helpful steps.

Step One: Gain the Knowledge

Get as much information about your child’s disability as possible. You probably are already drowning in research and information, but don’t stop learning! Discover other ways to understand your child’s disability, such as by finding support groups to meet families like your own. More information about your child’s disability will allow you to plan better for some obstacles you may face. A support group will also lend parents a helping hand and advice during difficult times. Consider, Parent Center Hub which helps connect parents in a Parent-to-Parent program for families with similar needs. The website also offers great fact sheets for various disabilities.

Step Two: Create a Custom Plan

Create estate planning that understands your child’s needs. Not all estate planning or estate planners are created equal, especially when it comes to planning for a child with a development disability. You need to work with an estate planner who understands the special challenges you face, including, selecting the right guardians who will be there when you cannot be, protecting valuable government benefits your child is entitled to and making sure there is a meaningful, safe environment for your child to live in.

Step Three: Communicate Early and Often

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Whether it be talking to your children, your family members, your attorney or even their teachers, communication is key. Communicating will allow you to express your concerns with people that may be watching over your children and help you develop action plans for their care in case of emergency and something happened to you. Communicating with people such as teachers, attorneys and doctors will allow you to begin to feel more comfortable as well as address any concerns that you have.

Take the time to spread awareness this month. You can share this blog post or contact us for more information. It is important that we all do what we can to make a positive change in the lives of those living with disabilities.

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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about estate planning and how to protect what matters most.

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