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#42040 - 12/10/07 11:17 PM special needs child
dede Offline
Visitor

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 5
One of my three children has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum - high functioning. He currently has a NY 529 plan but we aren't sure how profound his disabilities are right now (he is only just three). Does anyone on the board have any experience with using 529 proceeds in courses that would be covered for special needs adults? I know I can divert funds to my other two children if he doesnt attend college (assuming they attend of course) but would like to know what the options are for long term funding purposes.


Edited by dede (12/10/07 11:18 PM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#42053 - 12/11/07 11:49 PM Re: special needs child [Re: dede]
schoolshrink1 Offline
Member

Registered: 07/13/02
Posts: 266
Loc: Tenino, WA USA
dede, time will tell how impacted your child is on the autism spectrum. As he is high functioning you have reason to suspect that he may be eligible for college at some level. Though I have no experience in using my 529 monies for my 9 year old child (he has autism and ADHD), I know that any qualified higher education expenses (QHEEs) would be covered by saving in a 529. Only you know your child and what will be realistic for him to accomplish. To me, what is most important will be to have him develop basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics) as well as possible. Like any student, he will need basic skills that can generalize to a particular area of study that he might pursue one day. Skills will develop, but how well he develops them will depend on his natural ability and how well he is taught as an autistic student.

As long as you have the ability to fund three 529's, I would encourage you to do that. Were it not to appear realistic for your son to benefit from college, you could transfer funds to your other kids. As you say he is high functioning, as long as he develops basic skills he should be able to attend a community college or trade school, at least, and 529 monies would be used for QHEEs. And if he is particularly talented, ala Temple Grandin at Colorado State University, he might develop very high skills. Time will tell, but I would encourage you to have faith that he will develop functional skills that will benefit him when he is older. Best wishes to you and your family.
_________________________
Michael W. Kirlin

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#42054 - 12/11/07 11:58 PM Re: special needs child [Re: schoolshrink1]
Drew Offline
Member

Registered: 01/09/00
Posts: 2987
Loc: Easton, PA, USA
I think I might also invest a good bit of time in making sure I understood how to make use of due process at the earliest appropriate age for an IEP and if necessary secure the specialized legal resources as an advocate to make sure my local schools provided a free appropriate public education....

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#42057 - 12/12/07 01:24 AM Re: special needs child [Re: Drew]
schoolshrink1 Offline
Member

Registered: 07/13/02
Posts: 266
Loc: Tenino, WA USA
Drew, I avoided the topic because I would encourage the family to see what the child is able to do before assuming that an IEP is needed. A first step, however, might be to go to a developmental center or a school district that conducts preschool screenings. All school districts have a childfind obligation, to identify students with disabilities who are at least three years old.

Though we want to see children with delays get help at as early an age as possible, I would want the parent to ask where the delays are apparent. If the boy has communication delays in particular, and possibly social/emotional, adaptive behavior, or motor delays, I would agree with you and would want to have the boy assessed to determine preschool special education eligibility. My own opinion is that developing communication skills at a young age is particularly important, as the ability to use spoken language precedes the ability to read and write.

For some disabled students, though, an IEP can be a real drawback. Special education continues to operate on a deficit model -- as there are delays we attempt to remediate those areas of weakness. The result is ongoing focus on what students cannot do as opposed to what they can. I hope the parent asks when he is school age, in a six hour day, if too much focus on remediation might actually set him back. The history of placing kids in special education programs has led to a lot of mediocre placements, or worse.

As a result, for my son, I make sure he is in a regular classroom as long as possible. He has an IEP only to aid with handwriting, as that is the only weakness he has that impairs his ability to function in a regular classroom substantially. I have no doubt that any additional services on his IEP would lead to a less beneficial education for him. That conclusion was based on what I know from experience in working with special education students, and in particular on what I know about my own son. I would hope this parent would similarly base any judgments about the need for an IEP on what the boy is actually able to do, and avoids making the assumption that an IEP is necessary because a diagnosis of autism was provided.
_________________________
Michael W. Kirlin

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#42060 - 12/12/07 11:24 AM Re: special needs child [Re: schoolshrink1]
Drew Offline
Member

Registered: 01/09/00
Posts: 2987
Loc: Easton, PA, USA
You may be right--but my experience is that schools often take the low cost approach and a cookie cutter approach where possible--so if the child has individual needs not available in the ordinary course of events then the parent needs to at least be knowledgable of how to apply legal pressure to deliver what the kid needs not what the district may prefer to offer. And I most certainly positively would not rely just on the schools opinion of what the child needs. I agree--the more the child is in a regular classroom the better the likley outcomes--but I'd be careful of classes which are ability grouped---placement in a dumb group may be counterproductive.

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#42075 - 12/12/07 09:45 PM Re: special needs child [Re: Drew]
dede Offline
Visitor

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 5
We are in a very good school system and my son has just aged out of an excellent Early Intervention Program, just underwent his CPSE and will be in a 1:7 teacher:pupil ratio plus two assistant special ed preschool environment for the next two years, hopefully ending up in an integrated preschool class and then integrated into his Elementary School. Time will tell the degree of his issues. If needs be we will supplement his therapy privately.

The question in my mind is whether it is better to set up a separate special needs trust which can then be used for higher education expense or whether we should fund just one (trust or 529) or both. Are there any state plans which allow 529 funds to be transferred to a Special Needs Trust for example?

Any help most welcome, DeDe.

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#42080 - 12/13/07 08:54 AM Re: special needs child [Re: dede]
Drew Offline
Member

Registered: 01/09/00
Posts: 2987
Loc: Easton, PA, USA
You cannot transfer out of a 529 to a trust as a qualified distribution.

In many respects I think a 529 is easier to manage than a small trust if you are not keen to do your own 1041 returns etc. Unless you are a skilled investor you as trustee maynot be able to outperform a 529 and beyond minor income distributed to kid at kids rate the trust wlll be tax inefficient compared to a 529.

In theory one could have a special needs trust own a 529 and if thats all it owned the 1041 would be duck soup.

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