Sunday, December 20, 2009

One Parent’s Story on the Benefits of ABA and Special Needs Programs

Managed and owned by Michael Moed for the past seventeen years, Friendly Tire has emerged as one of the top used and new tires facilities in all of Broward County. Through hard work and much experience, Moed has built the Friendly Tire business into prominent status in the discount tire industry. He is also the father of three boys, Seth, Ryan, and Aaron and one daughter, Sydney. The Moed family became aware of autism when his youngest son, Aaron, was diagnosed with a mild case of autism at the age of 2 in 2003.

Moed has been around the tire business since an early age. His father owned a tire store of his own, where he worked at and gained much valuable experience in the field that would later lead to success with his very own store not too many years later. Moed learned his strong work ethic and responsibility from his father while working for his father. Now with Friendly Tire, Moed carries along those strong morals and applies them to his own business that has held its own and become very successful.

Aaron’s family became determined to do everything they could to support Aaron and help him get better as much as possible. Even till this day Aaron goes through many speech, behavioral, and occupational therapy sessions. The hard work represented by Moed in his occupation highly resembles the family’s determination to make Aaron’s life better.

Before Aaron was diagnosed with autism, the family knew nothing about it. When Aaron was first diagnosed, they received much information from Nova Southeastern University Card Services. As Aaron was already receiving speech therapy, the family added on Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA) as recommended by his preschool teacher and speech therapist.

Nova aided the family in finding a private ABA therapist who started working with Aaron when he was 3 years old. The therapist was instrumental in Aaron’s progress as it was through her work that Aaron started to talk and follow 1-2 step directions. In time the family started to see progress in other areas and realized the potential that Aaron had inside of him. It became clear how important therapy is to a child with autism. Following the addition of ABA, the family also added occupational therapy to Aaron’s program.

Occupational therapy is generally a very important part of an autistic child’s program. Currently Aaron receives ABA therapy for eight hours week at Behavior Analysis. After the initial private therapist that Aaron first worked with, the family had a tough time searching for a new one that was just as effective. They experienced ones that just didn’t care about their jobs and ones that cared way too much but only because of the monetary value of it. Like the movies, it turned out that the sequel did not end up being as good or close to the first.

As a family, they were left clueless and they were not sure what to do in order to aid Aaron. Michael and his wife, Debbie, began to search for different special needs educational options. The task became difficult as it was soon to be discovered that there were such a limited amount of schools for special needs children and that the remoteness of the locations were less than favorable.

His parents eventually found a suitable education and finally Aaron began his education at a preschool program held at the Atlantic West Elementary public school of Broward County schools. He then went to a private school with a small amount of children that did not turn the way they expected it to. Once Aaron got older and entered elementary school age, they decided to send him to the special needs program at Parkside Elementary School where he still attends today.

The Moed family has tried to help Aaron in all aspects including joining different organizations such as the National Autism Society, Autism Speaks, and the Autism Society of America. Aaron also participates in a program called the Friendship Circle, which is a program that offers free events for special needs children in which they are partnered up with a teenage volunteer. The program is run by the Chabad of Parkland. He has also participated in sports leagues for special needs children where the sports included baseball. Aaron’s family does activities with him daily such as going outside and playing soccer or even just going to get groceries. Everyone in the family has sacrificed a great deal in order to make Aaron’s life the best it can possibly be.

The future for Aaron is appearing to be brighter as time goes on. Aaron’s attendance at a typical camp this summer, combined with his new therapies will help with his progress and add to the potential for more classroom mainstreaming. Active treatment is worth it and the benefits derived from it are vast.

Michael Moed is the owner of Tire Service -

Financial Planning For Families With Special Needs Children

By Robert Weisbein, President of Complete Financial

Financial planning for families with special needs children is complex and very different from the typical planning of ones own retirement and estate.

Structured properly, it can assure that a child retains the same quality of life that his parents provided. But if the financial and legal arrangements are mishandled, a well-intentioned parent could destroy a son or daughter's eligibility for essential -- and expensive -- services.

Social Security provides special-needs individuals with money for food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Having even a modest amount of assets in their own names can cut them off from benefits.

The complexity of laws and the emotional issues are the biggest problems for special needs families – resulting in a failure to plan. The federal law says if you leave a person with special needs with more than $2,000, they'll automatically lose benefits. It kind of paralyzes people to not doing any planning.

But without proper planning, a family member with special needs could become a ward of the state after his parents' death.

While every family's situation will be unique, there must always be a special needs trust, a letter of intent, a trustee and a guardian.

The special needs trust is a special trust with one purpose: to leave assets to care for a loved one while protecting his eligibility for government benefits. It needs to be drawn up by an attorney with background in that area.

We stress that special needs planning requires a qualified team that includes a family member, a social worker or medical professional to discuss ongoing care needs, an attorney and a certified public accountant.

Don't make the mistake of using a relative or friend if that person lacks the proper experience.

Ask the attorney and CPA how many special needs trusts they've handled in the past year, what percentage of their client base is special needs families, and how well-versed they are in government benefits eligibility.

This kind of estate planning is different. Here, oftentimes, you need to create money, not preserve it. It's also critical to alert extended family members about the existence of the trust.

Funding options

When considering funding sources for the trust, parents not only have to consider their own longevity for retirement, but the potential life spans of their children.

Your decisions for what happens to them depend on knowing very well could be there long after you are gone. You're not dealing with a 12-year-old. Your planning has to take into consideration not just your supporting you in retirement for 25 years or more but for the support of your child for this life expectancy which may be many years beyond that.

The most common source of funds in a special needs trust is life insurance. We recommend a second-to-die, or survivorship, policy, which only pays out when both named policyholders die and, thus, is more affordable than regular policies.

We caution against considering a house or an individual retirement account as the principal asset funding the trust.

You have to make sure your retirement is set first. How will you be able to help your special needs child if you can't take care of yourself?

For those parents who can afford it you may want to consider an immediate annuity. You take a lump sum of money and give it to an insurance company in return for a lifetime income, no matter how long your child lives.

Letter of intent

The letter of intent is your instructions to the trustee and the guardian on how you want your child cared for when you're gone. It's not a legal document, so it should be witnessed and notarized. If the child has cognitive ability, he should be involved in drafting the letter.

It should be specific, and cover such issues as health care, education, living arrangements and religious preferences. If your child loves baseball and you want him to be able to go to every home game, this is the place to discuss that.

Share it with the guardian because it tells them what you expect. When you just ask, 'You're always going to make sure Johnny's taken care of, right?' it's very vague. The name and address of physicians, areas of specialty, doctors you never want them to go back to, put that in.

Choosing who will care for your child

In addition to establishing and funding a special needs trust, the most critical decisions for parents are the selection of a trustee and a guardian. The trustee will have control over the child's money and its investment; the guardian will be responsible for his day-to-day care, including life-and-death medical decisions. It's vitally important because "when someone turns 18, they're a legal adult whether they function as one or not.

Some families may decide to use the same person as trustee and guardian; most choose two people, or may use a family member as guardian and a financial institution as a trustee. Since the individuals will have responsibilities to the child for his lifetime, successors need to be selected as well.

Once a trustee and a guardian have been selected, it's important to review the plan on a regular basis, or at least after a major life event, such as a marriage, divorce, a job change, or the birth of a child.