Posts Tagged ‘ Make the First Five Count ’

Easing the Financial Burden for Special-Needs Families

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There are a lot of great chronicles of life with a special needs kid (case in point: our blogger, Ellen Seidman, who writes about her awesome son on To the Max). The scenario is definitely familiar to lots of readers—more than 20 million American families have at least one member with special needs, and 1 in 88 kids has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But you don’t often hear about the financial side of the story. It can cost a bundle to raise a kid: according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, parents will spend more than $235,000 on children born today—and that doesn’t include college tuition. Though this figure might seem staggering, the estimated cost of raising a kid with special needs is much higher: as much as $3.2 million. Early identification can connect kids with resources that they need to lead happy, healthy lives, but the cost of caregivers, therapies, and treatments can add up quickly.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) has launched a new Facebook campaign to raise awareness about the financial challenges faced by parents of special-needs kids. For each “like” the video receives, MassMutual will donate $5 to the Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count® program, which promotes early identification of disabilities and developmental delays. Visit the MassMutual Facebook app to get involved.

Image: House of coins via Shutterstock

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Is Autism Being Diagnosed Too Late?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

That’s the question you can’t help but ask when you read the latest news from the Centers for Disease Control about the prevalence of autism. The alarming figure so many of us are familiar with–1 in 110 children have autism–is actually rising. The number is now 1 in 88. (And when you look at the number of boys who are found to have autism, it’s frighteningly higher: 1 in 54.)

The CDC’s data reports that the median (not average) age at which children are diagnosed with autism is 48 months. It’s 53 months for autism spectrum disorder/pervasive developmental disorder, and 75 months for Asperger disorder. Considering how greatly kids can benefit from early intervention, those ages are worrisome. Our friends at Easter Seals raise concerns: “We are completely missing the mark on early diagnosis, given that autism can be accurately identified at 24 months,” says national director of autism services Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH. “We have a lot of work to do in the area of early identification.”

To that end, Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count initiative, with help from CVS Caremark, has launched a free online screening tool that gives all parents of children up to 5 years old access to Brookes Publishing’s Ages & Stages Questionnaires. This tool does not diagnose (that’s important to note), but it allows you to figure out whether your child is developing appropriately and help you pinpoint concerns you may want to discuss with your child’s doctor. It only takes between 10 and 20 minutes for you to answer the questionnaire and you’ll have results emailed to you within two weeks. Please share the link with other parents of the 5-and-under set, and we can help lower that too-old age of diagnosis.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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Does Your State Do Enough For Children Who Need Help?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Today Easter Seals, the nonprofit provider of services for individuals with autism and other disabilities, released a report that outlines how well each state takes care of its youngest children with special needs. To determine this, researchers looked at how much money every state is given to provide early intervention services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C program. This program offers free services for families of children under age 3 with developmental disabilities or delays, and in October it celebrated its 25th anniversary, but it’s never been fully or adequately funded. Just 2.67 percent of children are enrolled in the program, but early childhood experts estimate that anywhere from 13 to 20 percent of kids under 3 could benefit from its services.

Overall, the Easter Seals report has a sad bottom line: In almost every state, infants and toddlers with delays don’t get the help they need, and they may never catch up. I went straight to the page for New Jersey, since that’s where I live, and was discouraged to see that our state receives $809,000 less in federal funding for early intervention services than it did last year. Virtually every state has seen their funding drop, though some states, like New Hampshire, have the same amount, and California, Virginia, and New York have actually gotten slightly more funding through Part C in the past year.

Want to do something about this? Support Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count initiative and sign the petition to Congress opposing any more cuts to Part C–in your state and everyone else’s. And if you think your child might benefit from early intervention, talk to your pediatrician, or find an Easter Seals near you–they are here to help.

Image: Multicolor Grunge USA Map, via Shutterstock

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