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SMART WOMAN: PROTECTED TOMORROWS - THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

The cost of caring for a person with autism for their entire life is more than two million dollars. But, what happens when parents pass, and there's no one to pay?

    The cost of caring for a person with autism for their entire life is more than two million dollars. But, what happens when parents pass, and there's no one to pay? It's something moms and dads of autistic and other special needs kids worry about constantly.

    24 year old Austin Lewis was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. His parents, Kay and Randy, hope he continues to live a happy and long life. But for years, they've worried about what will happen to him when their lives end. "You realize you only have so much time on this earth" said Randy Lewis. Kay Lewis added "every parent wants to live one day longer than their child with special needs."

    Mary Anne Ehlert of Protected Tomorrows says "Parents can't imagine their child with a special need, without them." Ehlert helps families like the Lewis's prepare for the inevitable. "What do they want for their child, and what are they spending today" said Ehlert she says costs for care, housing and food can vary based on disability level, but the yearly average can be around $65,000. Ehlert also recommends parents look at financial planning for a special needs child as a retirement plan for three. Also, invest in a life insurance policy, but do it early because if you get sick, you might become uninsurable. Then you should make a will but do not leave money to your disabled child, because in most states, if they have more than two-thousand dollars to their name, they're disqualified from federal and state programs.

    "Leave that money for the child in a special needs trust" added Ehlert, who also says, if possible, set up a co-trustee between a family member and a trust company. Ehlert said to do this because "a family member has the heart. The trust company has the expertise." And the Lewis family is doing it all for Austin. "I think it'll be fine. I think it'll be fine" said Randy Lewis.

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