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Services are Available for Autism and other Special Needs, but Planning is Crucial

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 The cost of raising a child to the age of 17 has been estimated to be about $234,000.  But that figure can easily quadruple for children with special needs.  Donald Bailey knows.  He is a special needs advocate and author whose grown son has autism.   He urges families with special needs members to make a plan for caring for that individual because, as it did with him, the question will eventually come around: what will happen when mom and dad (or other family) are no longer around to care for him/her? 

A life plan includes legal documents that may include trusts, conservatorships, guardianships, as well as Social Security and Medicaid.  Lawyers will probably be needed, says Bailey.  For those concerned that they can’t afford this legal help, Mary Sturgill of the S.C. Autism Society tells us that the Society can connect families with attorneys who do this work pro bono.  Debbie Leach, a professor of special education at Winthrop University, adds that planning by the family is important, but that the community also must come together to help care for people with special needs. 

Bailey, who has written a book on the subject, speaks at no charge to groups about the importance of planning and about his own experience with his son.  He may be reached at dbailes@bellsouth.net or (843) 814-4498.  Information also is available from the South Carolina Autism Society at scautism.org or  (803) 750-6988.

Tut Underwood is producer of South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication. He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree. He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.