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When a diagnosis changes hope for a child's future

What is behind a teenager's sudden refusal to go to school or the unusually "silly" behavior of a pre-schooler? A diagnosis "on the spectrum" at any age often raises more questions than answers. A hoped-for future may start to look different.

The statistics paint a less-than-rosy picture. We will speak to some of these numbers in this post. Those are averages. Each child is unique and will have strengths and deficits that emerge over time. Parents have options and should consider special needs planning that will ensure the right mix of protections and resources are in place.

The statistics

Estimates are that somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed. Many adults with autism suffer from depression and as many as two-thirds admit contemplating suicide. Costs to raise ASD children are also higher, but finally receiving a diagnosis may open avenues to additional resources.

Where would a child live?

One mom who recently learned her son was on the spectrum, shared worries about who her son would live with if something happened to her.

While it might not be your first thought, this is where provisions in a will can help. By taking action to draft a will or revise a will, you can ensure there is an answer. By listing a guardian and back-up guardian, it could avoid the need for guardianship and conservatorship court proceedings.

Speak with the person who you would list as a guardian to ensure this person is equipped to deal with your child and would agree to care for him or her.

How would a child's needs be met

Providing for future needs is an understandable fear. While Medicaid and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) provide for housing and other basic needs, there is a lot that is not covered.

Medicaid is needs based, which means it is crucial to consider setting up a special needs trust to exempt assets from Medicaid consideration. Tied in with this is putting in place checks and balances to ensure proper administration of the trust.

Take the time to figure out what a diagnosis means. Then schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney to make sure the proper mix of protections are in place in case anything were to happen to you.

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