Typically, when a woman finds out she is pregnant, she will begin to imagine all the wonderful things that she and her child will do. Maybe she’s picturing days in the park, or a day of shopping with her daughter. Maybe it’s watching her son play football, with mom cheering in the bleachers as he gets the winning touchdown. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that not every child gets the opportunity to do those things. However, just because the dream changes, it doesn’t mean that the new dream is any less wonderful, for both you and your child.
Whether it was at birth that you realized there was something….not quite traditionally perfect about your child, or maybe it was later. I had the unique experience of having it happen twice. When my oldest daughter was born, it was quickly obvious that there was something wrong with her legs. She spent a long time in a brace, and had tons of physical therapy, and eventually walked normally. Several years later, I found out she had a significant hearing loss, that even with surgery did not go away entirely. But the moral of the story is, with early intervention and lots of speech therapy, she seems just fine now. She will always be hard of hearing, but I shudder to think how bad it all would have been if we hadn’t gotten the help we need.
Obviously, not every case is that simple, and I do not mean to minimize the more serious cases. However, the fact of the matter is that virtually every child who has challenges will function better, if given early access to intervention. Even if it is just there to teach your child how to better function with his or her limitations, it’s a really good idea to get your child as much help as possible, as early as possible.
The Money Part
It is obvious to everyone that, in general, having a special needs child can quickly become very expensive. If your child starts out in the world as a very small or premature baby that weighs under two pounds and ten ounces, he or she will probably be eligible for a disability check for at least the first twelve months. This amount will be smaller during the time that your child is in the hospital, but should increase shortly after your child comes home. You should ask for an application from the social worker at the hospital as soon as possible. If your child is not in the hospital, you can apply by calling 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting your nearest social security office. If you need help finding it, go to http://www.ssa.gov/ with your zip code.
Additionally, any child with a permanent disability ( either mental or physical) may very well be eligible for a disability payment. The amount of this check will vary tremendously, and is based on a variety of factors, but will certainly be an enormous help to you as you raise your child. It is intended to help with the child’s expenses that relate to their medical condition, and can be used to help pay for anything that he or she needs.
It will usually take anywhere from three to five months for your child to get the first payment. Obviously, your child cannot receive the checks in their name, so you will be considered a “payee” and you will receive the payments. However, in some situations, you could receive payment right away.
These situations might include, but are not limited to:
1) Complete Blindness
2) Complete Deafness
3) Cerebral Palsy
4) Down Syndrome
5) Muscular Dystrophy
6) HIV infection
7) The very low birth weight previously mentioned
If you receive a quicker payment, it does not actually mean that your case is decided. There is always the possibility that the case will be denied. However; if that were to happen, you would not be required to pay back the funds that you have received.
Once the case has been approved, it will be reviewed at least once every three years, unless you are receiving social security solely because of your child’s birth weight. If that is the case, you will be reviewed before your child turns a year old, unless it is obvious that your child needs more time.
At each review, you will be required to show proof that your son or daughter is receiving the appropriate medical care. They will also verify that your child is still disabled.
Additionally, in some states, your child being disabled will automatically qualify you for other services, like a certain amount of free child care, help with transportation, as well as medical assistance and TANF. To determine the amount of extra help your state might be able to offer you, contact the closest socials services agency. If you need help finding it, go here: http://www.statelocalgov.net/, and you can search by your state. You could also go to http://www.211.org/, and that website could help you as well.
Making Sure Your Child Can Get The Treatments They Need
In most states, children who receive social security disability payments are automatically eligible for Medicaid, which will pay all of the cost of medically necessary treatments, including hospitalizations and prescriptions. If you live in one of the few areas that does not permit that, you could still be eligible for the low-cost state medical insurance. It is very similar to Medicaid, but asks for small co-pays and an annual payment. These payments are very reasonable, and are based on your income.
The medical expenses for your child can quickly become enormous. If you choose not to, or are unable to get Medicaid or state insurance, it is incredibly important to have some sort of coverage. Assuming that the recent guidelines established by President Obama stay in place, your child should be eligible for one of the “high-risk” pools of insurance that are federally subsidized, which is another way of reducing your insurance costs. This would allow anyone with pre-existing conditions, which would previously have been a condition of declining coverage, to get insurance at a reasonable cost.
To be eligible for this, you may have to prove that getting traditional insurance is too expensive OR that he or she was declined for insurance. They might also have to be uninsured for a period of time to prove eligibility, among other things.
It is very possible for you to have an ability to improve the quality of life for your child. They need you to advocate for them, and to help them do what they can, as well as they can, as long as they can. This is even more true when you have a child with special needs. Just remember that to take care of your child, you have to take care of yourself first. You are, after-all, a package deal.