Tag Archives: Autism

Mom Autism Money: A Week of Giveaways

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Big news!

The Mom Autism Money podcast officially launches on October 19!

To celebrate, we’re hosting a series of giveaways leading up to the big day.

Here’s the schedule.

Opens Tuesday 10/5

Inside a sturdy, hinge-topped steel container is a stack of cards. The card on top reads '$martCards for future millionaires. Helping the next generation learn the language of money.' Displayed in front are four of the cards in bright colors, highlighting credit repair, bonds, assets and compound interest.

Giveaway item: $martCards from The Master Playbook
Dates: Giveaway open from 10/5/2021 through 10/12/2021
Where to enter: This giveaway is live!

Opens Wednesday 10/6

Giveaway item: Signed, paperback copy of The Feminist Financial Handbook
Dates: Giveaway open from 10/6/2021 through 10/13/2021
Where to enter: This giveaway is live!

Opens Thursday 10/7

Giveaway item: Paperback copy of Sincerely, Your Autistic Child
Dates: Giveaway open from 10/7/2021 to 10/14/2021
Where to enter: This giveaway is live!

How To Make Your Own Sensory Toys For Autistic Kids And Early Learners

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

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Whether you are a parent of an Autistic child or an early learner then you no doubt are in the market for some sensory toys. Previously, Femme Frugality showed you how to make a sensory bottle, which has helped a lot of parents calm their distracted child.

There are so many more types of sensory toys, though. You may want to make some yourself if you were inspired already to make the bottle. Of course, if you don’t have the ambition or time, then feel free to pick up some school supplies value bundles that include some sensory toys.

Here are just a few ideas of some sensory tools you can make yourself at home after you’ve checked out the sensory bottle.

Fidget toys

Just about anybody can enjoy the benefits of a fidget toy. The repetitive motor movements they require are a good way to help somebody focus and calm down when feeling anxiety.

For an Autistic child, the rhythm allows the brain to filter out any outside sensory information. Noises, lights and similar stimuli can cause an anxious child to have an episode.

When making a fidget toy, make sure that it has a few factors that make it useful during one of these episodes.

For instance, if it can respond to a movement the child has then it will help them to focus. A balloon filled with sensory sand that will squish in their hand in a rhythm works very well.

Another example is a string of beads, sort of like a rosary or prayer beads. These can also work well. When they feel fidgety, moving a bead across the string one after the other offers up a rhythm that allows them to block out stimuli from outside.

Weighted items

When a child’s system is overwhelmed with stimulation, a weighted item can be like a strong hug that allows them to calm themselves on their own.

A very popular tool is a weighted blanket that offers deep pressure stimulation. A good one provides even and gentle pressure that helps to create a sense of calm and safety. This is a tool to be used before a child starts getting overwhelmed and spiraling out of control with emotions and fear.

Since these blankets can be quite expensive, you can start out by trying one you make yourself to see if it works for your child. If you have an afghan or a thick quilt, you can fold it into fourths and then lay it over your child. See how they respond to it and then buy an actual weighted blanket.

Weighted stuffed animals also have a similar effect when placed on a child’s lap. Take a stuffed animal and open it up. Then fill the inside with things like sand, poly pellets or even some rice. When the child has it sit on their lap it will also feel like getting a big hug.

ASMR Soap Balls

Another way to calm the body is by stimulating the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR.) A popular way to do that right now is through ASMR soap balls.

To make soap balls, grate a soap bar or soap loaf. Glycerin soap tends to work best. After you’ve grated the soap, gather up a handful at a time. Spray it a few times with a water bottle, then mold it into a ball shape.

Allow the soap balls to dry for a few days. Then they’ll be ready for your child to squeeze in their hands. As the soap ball crumbles, it will make a crunching sound which initiates the ASMR.

 

ABLE to Work Shelters More Money From Asset Tests

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Wednesday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that Autistic poeple face and achieve. While this series is for Autism Acceptance Month, the following information applies to everyone with a disability diagnosed before age 26. Any dollar amounts referenced are for the 2020 tax year.

If you have a disability, the state often disallows you from doing things like building an emergency fund. They prevent you from doing so via asset tests.

Asset tests can prevent you from getting anything from SNAP benefits to Medicaid access.

Luckily, you can get around this asinine hindrance by keeping your money in an ABLE account — a 529 account which shelters your savings from asset tests. An ABLE account also allows your money to grow tax fee.

Qualified withdrawals from ABLE accounts are quite generous compared to a typical 529 account; you can pull money out for anything related to the disabled person’s life without penalty.

The amount you can save in an ABLE account annually is typically limited. But some employed adults can almost double these limits due to legislation called ABLE to Work.

How much can you normally save in an ABLE Account?

Typically, you can save $15,000/year in an ABLE account. Anyone can contribute towards this $15,000 max. It doesn’t matter if it’s you saving, or family and friends contributing towards your account.

How much extra can you save with ABLE to Work?

ABLE to Work is legislation that allows disabled adults with a job to stow away a little extra cash every year.

If you work a job and have an ABLE Account in your own name, you can save over the $15,000 limit with this legislation.

“The contribution limits for ABLE accounts and rules around ABLE accounts are determined by IRS codes,” explains Tricia Rosen of Access Financial Planning.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made significant changes to ABLE accounts. It’s important to keep in mind the provisions of TCJA are only effective through December 31, 2025 at this time.”

So just how much extra can you save with the temporary TCJA changes under ABLE to Work?

That depends on how much you bring in.

Technically, you can save up to the federal poverty line. In 2021, that’s an additional $12,760 if you’re in the contiguous US. In Hawaii, the limit is $14,680. In Alaska, it’s $15,950.

If you don’t make that much per year through your job, you can’t put that much in. The max you’re allowed to put in is up to your total annual earnings — as long as those earnings are below the federal poverty line where you live.

What’s the catch?

Yes, there is a catch.

You can only save the extra ABLE to Work amount if you do not participate in an employee-sponsored retirement plan.

Technically, defined contribution plans disqualify you. You might have a defined contribution plan if:

  • The savings burden is put on you as an employee rather than guaranteed by your employer — even though the plan is offered by an employer.
  • The amount you will have to withdraw in retirement is dependent upon your individual savings within this retirement account — combined with market performance.

Some common examples of defined contribution plans that would disqualify you from saving more with ABLE to Work include:

  • 401(k)
  • SEP IRA
  • 403(b)
  • 457(b)

Pension plans don’t count.

However, if you have a defined benefit plan through your employer — such as a pension — you qualify. You will be allowed to save the additional sum every year through ABLE to Work.

At least through 2025.

What if I have an ABLE Account across state lines?

What happens if you live in North Dakota but open an ABLE account from the state of Alaska?

Or live in Hawaii but open an ABLE account from the state of Iowa?

The additional amount you’re allowed to save is entirely dependent on your state of residence — not the state that administers your ABLE account.

That means the North Dakota resident is only allowed to save an additional $12,760. Even if they have an ABLE account from Alaska.

The Hawaii resident, however, would be allowed to save up to an additional $14,680. Even though their plan comes from Iowa in the contiguous United States.

What is the total amount you can save with ABLE to Work?

In 2021, the max allowable contributions including ABLE to Work are:

  • Contiguous US: $27,760
  • Hawaii: $29,680
  • Alaska: $30,950

Remember that if you earn less than the federal poverty line in any given year, your max allowable contribution amount will be less than the maxes available under ABLE to Work.

Additional Tax Benefits of ABLE to Work Act

The ABLE to Work Act — embedded in the TCJA — also allows you to count your first $2,000 of savings in an ABLE account towards the Savers Credit. This credit is typically reserved only for select retirement accounts. But until 2025, ABLE accounts make the cut.

As an individual tax filer, the max credit you could get would be $1,000 if you saved at least $2,000 in an eligible account. The amount doubles if you’re married and your spouse is doing the same thing.

This credit — which can be up to $1,000 — is non-refundable.

Non-refundable credits mean that if you owe the government $0, you can’t cash out the rest of your credit. It can reduce your tax, but it won’t get you cash in your pocket in and of itself.

529 rollovers are temporarily allowed. Well, kind of.

Many families can now also rollover funds from 529 accounts into an ABLE account, but they do have to meet certain requirements.

The real buzzkill on the 529 rollover change is that when you roll the funds over, they count as contributions for the year. So if you rolled over $15,000, you’d be able to contribute $0 more to your child’s ABLE account that year.

ABLE vs SSI Requirements

When your ABLE account exceeds $100,000 in total assets, it will start counting towards SSI asset tests. The max amount you can save in your account total varies by state.

It’s also important to note that SSI requirements are different from ABLE account requirements. SSI runs off of rules set by the SSA while ABLE is in the domain of the IRS. There may be instances where maxing out your ABLE account is detrimental to SSI or other state-administered benefits.

Always be careful to protect your benefits.

ABLE accounts are a great tool and a step in the right direction, but they do not solve all of the systemic financial obstacles the disability community faces.

Career Resources for Autistic Youth

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be running a series of Wednesday articles in April that focuses on the financial challenges and triumphs Autistic people face and achieve.

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If you have a child on the spectrum, you have one child on the spectrum. Your kiddo’s needs are completely different than the child next to them–even if the other child is on the spectrum, too.

With that in mind, today we’re going to be reviewing a governmental department which has resources to help those with disabilities–including autism–get the resources they need to start their careers off on the right foot. Your child does not have to have communication issues or visually-obvious accommodations in order to qualify for services.

If you are Autistic and American, you can benefit greatly from these services directly. Though I am writing to parents in this article, I do not mean to talk around you. But parents have a responsibility to figure these things out for their minor children, and I’m hoping that everyone has access to these services as young as possible.

However, the programs run by this department can help you throughout your life even beyond the days of youth.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

The federal government provides funding to state vocational rehabilitation agencies for a number of purposes. They aid both employers and job seekers to build inclusive workplaces, and go the extra mile to make sure training is available to those with medical needs.

Their aim is to help the disabled secure meaningful employment that highlights their skills, talents and interests. Their job is to remove barriers that may stand in their way of securing such employment, such as lack of guidance, lack of funding or lack of awareness and knowledge on the part of the employer.

Career Prep in Middle and High School

As a disabled student, your child has access to certain career-focused programs in middle and high school. The age at which your state starts attending IEP meetings to facilitate these opportunities through Individualized Plans for Employment (IPEs) may vary depending on which state you live in. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your state vocational rehabilitation agency as your child transitions from elementary to middle school–or around age 12.

Even if they are not eligible for services just yet, staff can make you aware of the programs that exist in your state, and make you aware of the earliest age at which your child qualifies for specific services.

States have some autonomy, so programs may vary. But here are some examples of services that may be available to your child as they move through middle and high school:

  • Career exploration, in which you identify your skills and interests to apply to the following opportunities:
  • Facilitation of guest speakers relevant to your field(s) of interest.
  • Information about relevant career fairs.
  • Workplace tours and visits.
  • Summer employment opportunities.
  • Job shadowing.
  • One-on-one mentoring.
  • Information regarding relevant volunteer opportunities in the area.
  • Direct employment programs during the latter years of high school.
  • Education about your rights in post-secondary educational settings and the workplace, along with coaching for self-advocacy.
  • Information and access to job-specific education opportunities, including but not limited to vo tech schools and community colleges.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. And not every opportunity will exist in every area of the country. But working with your state vocational rehabilitation agency will help you find as many of the doors that are open to your child as possible.

Funding for College, University or Trade School

No matter your child’s (or your own) age, there is a specific program across states that allows for funding of higher education.

Some states, like Pennsylvania, will only offer funding up to the average cost of community college, the reasoning being that the Office of Vocation Rehabilitation works in tandem with the state school system and community colleges to provide adequate services and accommodations to disabled students. You don’t necessarily have to go to a state school, but the amount vocational rehabilitation funding will be capped at that community college level.

Other states may pay full tuition even through grad school pending the availability of funds. Regardless of how much money you or your child is eligible for, you should take measures to get in touch with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitative Services agency. Any money for college is good money for college!

Note that for this program, you do not necessarily have to prove SSI disability qualification. As an individual on the spectrum, your child will qualify as disabled through SSI, but the SSI rigamarole is not something you’ll have to go through for this particular program.

After 21. Now what?

Vocational Rehabilitative Services which provide educational funding don’t have an age requirement. But so much else does when your child turns 21. Insurance requirements and coverages change, IEPs and the state school system are no longer required to execute the next step in your child’s growth, and if your child isn’t on the path to a traditional college education, it can be difficult to find support services which help them live a functional, meaningful life–even if they exist.

That’s where your state vocational rehabilitation agency can help. Well, sometimes. There are programs available which offer meaningful employment and social opportunities to those with communication and sensory needs dramatically divergent from the neurotypical population society has traditionally accommodated.

The hitch is your state has to choose to allocate their funding towards these programs.

Even if your state does not directly offer these types of specialized employment opportunities, your state vocational rehabilitative agency may be able to point you to other community organizations which do.

And if they can’t? They will have other programs established. The first step to learning more about them is contacting your state vocational rehabilitation agency. They’ll sit down and work with your child to create a plan to get closer to meaningful employment.

Additional Resources for Parents of Autistic Children

Getting resources and planning with your child for their future is definitely a long game. There are so many steps in the process. It’s legitimately a lucky miracle if you know some of these programs exist at all.

As you’re going through the process, here are some resources that can help make you and your child aware of their rights, services available to them, and the best available ways to pursue their dreams. Here are a few. If readers know of any more, they are highly encouraged to share them in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!

Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Wednesday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that people with autism face and achieve. When they are children, these things also tend to affect their family’s finances, as well.

Pinning for my nephew. They don't have Medicaid coverge in his state and it's really hard because of the services he needs with autism. Maybe another state could help them out better.

When you’re raising an autistic child, the largest expense you shoulder is healthcare. You learn that “healthcare” isn’t just doctor’s visits and the occasional dramatic visit to the ER. It’s therapy. Adaptive equipment. Communication devices. And more.

None of it’s cheap, and if you don’t have a good healthcare plan, a lot of it’s not going to be covered.

Even if you do have a good healthcare plan, some benefits will still not be covered. In many states, the most comprehensive way to get your child the services and equipment they need is through Medicaid, and many states allow disabled children access to Medicaid even if their parents’ income exceeds eligibility limits.

Want to find out how to shelter some of your savings from asset tests? Check out ABLE accounts.

Medicaid Coverage Saves Everyone Money

Medicaid coverage keeps kids out of institutions. Until the 1980’s, one of the only ways to get children with complex needs the services they required was through an institution. Whether a parent wanted to part with their child or not, they were often forced to.

This was also extremely expensive. Providing a child Medicaid benefits so they are able to live and thrive at home is far less costly than having them live in an intermediate care facility or nursing home.

Luckily, things have changed, but not all states are equal. Today we’ll be looking at Medicaid coverage options for children with autism across all fifty states–and Washington, D.C.

Before we get started, let’s review some vocab.

What is the State Plan?

“State Plan” simply refers to the Medicaid coverage that anyone gets if they apply for benefits with their state. Eligibility is dependent on income limits–not disability or lack thereof.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, is the most proven method for successful early intervention for children with autism. There’s just one problem: it’s insanely expensive.

Until recently, most insurers denied the evidence in favor of this therapy. Some still do because of its cost. But most states have enacted laws recognizing, and forcing insurers to recognize, it as an evidence-based therapy.

That doesn’t mean all states provide coverage. In 2014, the Federal government issued a mandate that arguably requires its coverage under Medicaid, but some states have interpreted this mandate differently.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge that not everyone is behind ABA–even within the autistic community. There are some autistic adults who are opposed to ABA therapy when it’s practiced with extreme rigor. However, there is also a general acknowledgement that there are ethical and non-ethical ways to practice ABA from the autistic perspective. You can get both sides of the argument here.

What is Level of Care?

Required “level of care” indicates where a child would have been cared for prior to our culture’s shift towards keeping autistic children with their families. In most states, three levels are commonly recognized. In order from the least care needed to the most:

  • Intermediate Care Facility– Many parents may be surprised to learn that their child would have been institutionalized not so long ago. This level of care can, in some cases, be equivalent to the child who goes to outpatient therapy several times a week and has behavioral therapists in their home or community setting.
  • Nursing Home– This level of care would require skilled nursing/medical care on a regular basis. Today, you may have a nurse come into your child’s home and/or school to help provide these services.
  • Hospital– This level of care is required when you need more than a nurse. There may be monitoring of a condition or simply more advanced care needed on a regular basis.

In this guide, the lowest level of care required is listed. For example, if a state lists the required level of care as an intermediate facility, that will typically mean that those at a nursing home or hospital level of care are eligible, too.

Conversely, if the listed level of care is “nursing home,” those who are at an intermediate care facility level of care would not qualify for the listed program.

What is a waiver?

A Medicaid waiver is simply a program that grants specific services to those who do not typically qualify for the State Plan. There are also waivers that provide services in addition to and including what’s available on the State Plan.

Wait List

You may notice that for most states, there is no reference to the wait list. This is done for two reasons.

  1. Medicaid programs are in flux at the moment. A wait list–or even a waiver–could change suddenly. It’s information we don’t have the capacity to update continuously.
  2. We want you to get in touch with the agencies that provide these waivers. Even if the wait list is too long for your child, state agencies may know of other programs or community organizations that could help in your unique situation.

Download Your Free Copy of Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In an attempt to make this guide thorough for all 50 states plus D.C., it is much longer than typical Femme Frugality content — 11,000+ words. As such, we’ve turned it into a PDF for your browsing convenience. You’ll be able to find your state in our table of contents and easily jump to the appropriate page to get the information you need.

>>Click here to get your free copy of the PDF<<

This information in the above PDF is accurate to the best of our research as of April 15, 2020. It will be reviewed and updated annually. Intensive research was performed for each state program. The majority of states had a governmental agency or independent advocacy group provide information regarding their programs.