Life Planning

Special Needs planning is comprised of four unique components that are intertwined. Each one is important to address in order to have confidence that the comprehensive special needs plan has the greatest potential impact.

In my five part blog series, I will briefly discuss each component of a comprehensive Special Needs Plan and help you think through some important aspects in each area of planning.

In this post, part two of my five part blog series, I will cover the importance of having a life plan for your loved one.

If you missed the first of the series, you can click here to see an overview of what is to come in the following weeks.

Much like any other area of planning, a life plan is always evolving as situations, abilities, hopes and dreams, and family dynamics change.

The life plan is one of the first areas of planning that a family should discuss. The purpose of a life plan is to create a focus and direction for the life of the individual we are planning for. There are many questions that should be addressed in this phase of planning. A few of these include:

  • Based on the individual’s abilities, what are the hopes and dreams you have for their life? (vocationally, socially, academically…etc.)
  • What are the aspirations of the individual? (vocationally, socially, academically…etc.)
  • How do you envision them living a dignified, purposeful, fulfilling, and impactful life?
  • What challenges need to be addressed and overcome to provide these hopes and dreams?
  • How will the life plan continue to impact the individual when the parents are no longer the main providers?

The process of creating a life plan should produce a document called the letter of intent or letter of instruction.

What is a Letter of Intent?

The letter of intent serves as the foundation to the life plan for a child with special needs. It is to ensure that the future provider and care giver of your child knows your child’s abilities, routines, interests, particular likes and dislikes, future goals, and care needs. This document needs to accompany (not serve as) the legal documents your family creates. A detailed letter of intent would allow a caregiver to truly understand your child and provide the best care and opportunities possible. Also included in the letter of intent should be specific individuals who are important to the success of your child’s future and quality of life. The more detail about your child that you can include in this document, the better.

Who Should Be Involved?

Often, families want to include key relationships in this conversation. Some, however, want to keep it as private as possible. The decision of when to include the individual that you are planning for is based on the maturity and level of responsibility that individual is capable of taking on. However, I have found that many parents underestimate the individual’s desire for involvement and including him/her will most likely be beneficial and create a peace of mind for all.

Some key people to consider involving:

  • The individual(s) that will potentially act as guardian
  • Other siblings
  • Extended family members/friends
  • The individual for which you are planning
  • Key health care/resource providers

Preparing to Create a Letter of Intent:

It is important to be prepared for this discussion. Some of the topics that will be discussed will be emotional. For this reason, it is wise to follow a template or a guide, making sure you are staying on track and covering the topics that are necessary to include in this document.

Because of the detail that needs to be discussed, many families will invite a third party into the conversation as a facilitator. This third party often will document the entire conversation and will create the letter of intent for the family.

The four aspects of special needs planning can seem overwhelming, frustrating, and confusing at times. These feelings can often result in no plan being created. A special needs planning professional will be equipped to ask the right questions to make the planning process easier and more impactful. He/she will be able to guide you through the process and share the needed resources.

Next week I will be discussing the importance of creating a resource plan.

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