You probably realize that planning can make a big difference for you, your child and your family. With a solid plan, there are fewer uncertainties, fewer loose ends to deal with in the future.
But at one time or another, most of us as parents let obstacles prevent us from planning for our child’s future. Some of these obstacles are:
- Fear of the unknown
- Denial that our child will still have a disability in the future
- Feeling so overwhelmed by what we’re dealing with in the present that the future seems too impossible to even think about
These reactions are perfectly natural and understandable. Most of us have them at one time or another. But they are products of our own thoughts and feelings, not necessarily what the reality is. After all:
- We can’t know the unknown, so why should we waste our energy fearing it? It’s almost never as bad as we think
- Denial is only in our minds—it will have no effect on whether our child will still have a disability in the future
- True, we may feel overwhelmed at times, but in the end we are usually able to deal with whatever comes our way
So don’t let fear, denial and negative feelings stop you from planning. By planning, you can free yourself of many of the problems that create fear, denial and negative feelings in the first place. Read on for some specific things you can do to plan for a better future for you, your child and your family.
Get on Medicaid Waiver Program waiting lists. These programs are our best supports for people with disabilities in Texas, but the waiting lists can be many years long. Even if you feel that you won’t need services when your child's name finally comes up, go ahead and take the time to sign up. When the day finally comes, you can decline Medicaid assistance if you want to, but at least you will have the choice. See DADS Medicaid Waiver Program for information about how to apply.
If your child's name is already on the list, keep your contact information up to date, and respond promptly to any communications from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), or your local authority. Also know where your child is on the list.
Do some financial planning. At age 18, your child's disability and her income determine her eligibility for services, not your family income. To qualify for most assistance, she will need to have no more than $2,000 in her name.
Focus on helping your child develop the skills that will benefit her the most in the future. Social and communication skills are among the most important. Behavior issues can be a barrier to future opportunities. Find ways that your family and your school can work with your child to help her learn to socialize, communicate and collaborate with others. See Resources to Help a Child with a Language Delay for more information.
Develop circles of support. Don’t cut yourself off from family and friends. Seek out the people in your life who are encouraging and open to your child. Strengthening these relationships can benefit your child far into her future.
Consider going through a formal planning process. This involves sitting down with a group of people who know and care about your child to inventory her present resources and needs, and create a plan for the future. Person-centered planning is one type of a formal planning process. For more information, see Person-Centered Planning on this site. Also check out Pathways: Planning for the Future from Texas Parent to Parent.
By Rosemary Alexander, PhD, Texas Parent to Parent (www.txp2p.org)