Families with special needs children, which are on the rise across the country, have a substantially greater chance of divorcing– over 80% in fact, and the risk actualy increases as their children get older. Here are some reasons why:

(1) the expenses related to these children can be astronomical– doctors, tutors, medicines, attorneys, therapists, not all of which may be covered by insurance add a lot of financial stress to the family’s budget;

(2) if a child has a behavioral disorder or disciplinary issues, this may cause friction between the parents; and

(3) whereas a mainstream child tends to become more independant around age 7-8, the special needs child may actually need more assistance at this time. The emotional and financial toll combined put these families at a huge risk of falling apart.

There is a debate as to whether there are more special needs children now because parents are waiting longer to have them, or perhaps we are just more aware of the issues, like ADHD, autism and dyslexia.  Either way, it is important to increase public awareness of the problems  these families face, and I was glad to share this information on national radio this week.  For those that missed the segment, I hope others will share this blog with anyone that has a special needs child.

Parents need to be aware of the risks and hopefully guard against them. Get help– involve the school counselors, teachers, doctors, etc. as soon as you think something is not quite right. Early intervention is the best chance of helping these kids and their families thrive. Special needs children may need to get an IEP, which is an individual education plan. There are attorneys that can help with this process, so that the school puts together a plan geared for that child’s specific needs. These plans do not apply to universities, however, so you may need to involve another attorney and invoke the American with Disabilities Act to ensure that your child continues to have special accomodations in college/gradudate school.

Special needs trust should also be considered to ensure that these children will have resources available to them upon the death of their parents, and back up guardians need to be identified in the event of an unforseen situation. In the beginning, without a clear path or understanding of the complex issues presented, families may feel overwhelmed, but the message I want to share today is that you cannot lose hope. Your children need you more than ever to keep it together, to form a plan, and get help from others as needed, to give these beautiful young minds a chance at meeting their full potential. There are so many resources out there– don’t be afraid to reach out!

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.