We talk about many things out here relating to planning (or lack of planning) to get married and have children, including age limitations, career, timing, and economics. One of the things I’ve hinted at from time-to-time is the cost of having a Special Needs Child.
Some say you should plan for the worst and hope for the best. I would not say having a Special Needs Child is the ‘worst,’ however it does put a family into a unique and confining financial situation.
My Special Needs Child is 12 years old and in 6th grade. I don’t talk about her specific diagnoses for many reasons … one is that they’re not really important in the overall scheme of things out here … another is that I do not care to
argue discuss her diagnoses. People have many convictions and opinions about things, and I’m at a point in my life and my journey with my daughter that I really don’t care what other people think, and it’s a waste of my time to engage in such discussions.
However, in light of this recent article, I thought I would share a bit within the framework of how we plan, or do not plan, for life. One of my daughter’s diagnoses is on the Autism Spectrum. Because of this (accurate) diagnosis, and quite a few other (accurate) diagnoses, I am not able to work outside the home. In the last five or so years I have been able to work inside the home in ways that allow me to be flexible to care for my daughter.
While some of the opinions of the article are definitely debatable, the truth of the cost of having a Special Needs Child, especially one on with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, is significant. The “loss” of income, or the inability for both parents to provide full-time income due to the need to care for the Special Needs Child, is very significant in this day and time.
Our two-income homes have demanded more, so supply has risen to the occasion. It’s expensive to live, and it’s even more expensive to live on one income in a two-income-economy, and it’s even more expensive than that to live on one income in a two-income-economy with the medical costs of a Special Needs Child.
Wise is the youth/young adult who chooses to gain upper education with little to no debt. Wise is the youth/young adult who plans to live on one income when married and prepares to do so (I am not saying they cannot have a two-income-home; I am saying they should learn to live on only one income).
We have friends who also have a middle-school child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The wife took a full-time job this past year. After figuring their taxes and determining how much of her income has gone into work expenses, including gas and auto expense commuting to and from work … and then how much they must pay in childcare (one cannot leave an autistic middle schooler alone, and this kind of childcare is often very costly), they determined she is only bringing home $20.00 a day.
So, as we emphasize out here, be wise, keep your eyes wide open, and prepare well. Limit all debt to the smallest amount possible, preferably none at all. Avoid student loan debt at all costs. Prepare to live on one income when married, whenever that time may come for you. Choose a lifestyle that accommodates one income and discipline yourself to stay within that lifestyle. Then, when life happens, and it will in one form or another, you will be as prepared as you can be financially and mentally to handle it all.
Another benefit to preparing well mentally and financially is that you are open to explore other choices and areas where God may use you. Some of those areas are Adoption, Adoption of a Special Needs Child, Ministry, and Missions. Another area is being flexible to relocate to care for aging parents or grandparents or to help family members or friends in other ways.
(I’m going to take a moment to praise my wonderful, new husband. He not only married me, but he married both my girls as well, including my Special Needs Child. He is never bitter or angry or anything negative concerning the care she needs and the sacrifices we make to provide that care for her. Our income is always very tight, and he is never bitter or angry about that, and he never holds a grudge about any of it. I am truly very, very blessed, indeed!)