Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Finding Help from the Government

Discussion Time

Anonymous asked: Hi, do you or anyone following you know any government help for a 9 year old kid with ADHD? I live in Spring Valley, NY USA. Thanks!

Claire responded: You can establish a 504 plan with your school, especially if your child has ADHD. Section 504 covers ADHD kids who don't qualify for special-ed services under IDEA, but who need extra help in the classroom. The law prohibits school from discriminating against students because of physical and mental problems. I used this with my grandson to get extra help and accommodations at school. Here is the official link: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html; here is another link with information for parents: http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/legal-rights/868-section-504.gs.

Thank you Claire for sharing these resources.

Carrilyn also suggested: Talk to your pediatrician and then your school. Call for an IEP meeting with his teacher and principal. Here in CA, there is free legal aid for families who have kids with special needs. You can look them up online and get a hold of them. They make sure your school is following the laws and interests of the child and parents concerns. In the meeting you can come up with ways to help this child. If they do not follow the agreement, you can call for another IEP meeting anytime you want. Look up your rights too.

The suggestions from our Facebook Fanpage are great for working with the schools, but I think there might be a bigger question that's worth researching and discussing further. Who qualifies for government programs? What are the government programs? Where do I find the information about these programs? 

I will do my very best to highlight the different programs that exist and how to find out more information. I will start by saying that in the USA, every state is different in their specific requirements. For example, we live in Connecticut and Little Miss M has a host of medical and developmental diagnoses. She currently does not qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), although her condition is applicable, our household income is considered too high. You can find more information about SSI and if your child may qualify here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf.

We also looked into getting Medicaid for Little Miss M. She was put on a wait-list that looks to be about six years in length. Using the Katie Beckett Waiver program which judges the disabled individual based on their own income, we were able to at least get Little Miss M on a wait list. I would strongly suggest contacting your state's Department of Social Services to inquire about available programs. 

Does this seem completely overwhelming? It did to me too. When Little Miss M first started having medical complications and then developmental ones, it was hard to say if it was chronic or not. It was hard to know if it was a lifelong disability or something she would outgrow. As she grew older, we began to realize that she would need lifelong care. The Husband and I have committed to providing that care for her. We hope to be able to do this in the comfort of her own home, giving her as much independence as is safe, but still being there to protect her. She will need help.

When we made this realization and decision, we started piecing together a program for Little Miss M. It's a slow process and honestly is nowhere near where we want it to be, but it's begun. We started by having honest conversations with her most important medical staff -- her pediatrician, her epileptologist, and her developmental doctor. The conversations centered around expectations and financial obligations. Having a child with special needs is a financial strain on the family budget. From doctor visits, to special foods, to equipment and therapies -- our budgets are stretched. We want to give our child the best possible tools to be as successful as she possibly can, but we still need to have a roof over our head and such. In our family, I made the very difficult decision to leave full-time out of the house employment and become a full-time stay at home mom. That was step number two for us. The conversations with the doctors got the ball rolling for more specific conversations. We contacted the Social Workers at both children's hospitals that we frequent. We contacted the state for SSI, knowing full well we'd be denied, but wanting to create that all important paper trail. We reached out to area parent organizations for helpful hints. We've even asked for therapy co-pays as birthday and Christmas presents instead of gifts. 

Another good resource is your school, as Claire said. If your child does not receive Special Education through an IEP, they may be eligible for a 504 plan based on their disability. I am re-posting the link that Claire provided, as the parent fact sheet is very helpful for this. http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/legal-rights/868-section-504.gs

Most public schools have a school psychologist and many have a social worker. Contact them and ask for assistance and direction in obtaining assistance. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there, you just have to know what you are looking for when you are talking to them. For us, it was financial assistance for medical bills. The best we have been able to get is paying monthly installments instead of large bills. 

Lastly, I want to touch on non-profit organizations. There are a lot out there and many of them have grant programs or Patient Assistance programs. Every non-profits' guidelines will be unique and you will most likely need to provide a financial statement and possibly doctors' letters - but there is help out there. Try searching through the following sites:

What types of assistance are you looking for? If you're searching or if you have some helpful hints, comment below to help other families. 

Amanda is a stay at home mom to three beautiful little girls. She received her Bachelor's of Music in Music Education and her Master's in Middle Level Education, but received her degree in life from her kids.

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