As experts in special needs planning, the ATC team meets many families who are struggling to find information and, confidently, make decisions regarding their child’s care. Receiving a diagnosis of autism for your toddler can feel overwhelming. However, there are several steps to consider to ensure their well-being.

  1. Access Services and Support Programs: Investigate available support programs and services in your area. Some may require legal documentation or applications to access them. This might include early intervention programs, educational services, Medicaid waivers, or disability services.
  2. Create a Care Plan: Work with healthcare providers and specialists to develop a comprehensive care plan for your child. This plan may include medical care, therapies, education plans, and other necessary services.
  3. Explore Guardianship and Future Planning: Depending on the severity of your child’s condition and their ability to make decisions as they grow older, you may need to explore legal guardianship or power of attorney arrangements for their future care.
  4. Educational Rights and IEP: Familiarize yourself with your child’s educational rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law ensures that children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education. You can work with the school to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) tailored to your child’s needs.
  5. Financial and Government Benefits: Investigate financial assistance and government benefits available to children with disabilities. This may include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other state-specific benefits. Consult with a financial advisor or lawyer specializing in disability law to understand eligibility and application procedures.
  6. Medical Consent and Healthcare Directives: Consider establishing medical consent forms or healthcare directives, especially if your child requires specific medical interventions or treatments. This ensures that you have legal authority to make medical decisions on their behalf.
  7. Legal Advocacy and Rights Protection: Familiarize yourself with your child’s legal rights and advocate for them when necessary. This might involve ensuring their access to accommodations, preventing discrimination, or seeking legal advice if their rights are violated.
  8. Explore Special Needs Trusts & ABLE Accounts: If you’re considering financial planning for your child’s future, look into setting up a special needs trust. This type of trust can help secure their financial future without jeopardizing eligibility for government benefits.
  9. Consider a Professional Trustee: Many families choose to name a parent or other loved one as the trustee of a special needs trust where their child is the beneficiary. While this may work for some families, for others, the responsibilities of the trustee may be too much for one person to handle.