Elementor #5155

special needs planning

HOW TO CREATE A SPECIAL NEEDS PLAN THAT ALLOWS YOUR CHILD TO LIVE A PURPOSEFUL, IMPACTFUL LIFE

PREFACE

WHY WE WROTE THIS ​GUIDE

At ENABLE, we believe that your child was made on purpose— and for a purpose. We also believe that your child has the ability to live an impactful life that makes a positive difference.

Special Needs Planning should enable you to confidently answer the following questions:

  1. “What does a purposeful and impactful life look like for my child today–and every day in the future?” 
  2. “How do I make sure my child is able to live this GREAT life?”

This guide will help you understand the five steps of comprehensive Special Needs Planning and how you can create a plan that enables your son or daughter to live a GREAT life.

Your Special Needs Plan creates an abundant life for your child TODAY and builds a future for your loved one that is unique and tailored to his or her own abilities, hopes, goals, and dreams.

WHO THIS GUIDE IS FOR

All families need to plan for the future–typical or otherwise. However, the need to plan now is exponentially more important for families who have a child with special needs.

  • Have the planning conversations you’ve had been focused primarily on your child’s unique hopes, goals, and dreams?
  • Are you confident that your special needs plan was designed so that your child has every opportunity to live a life that allows his or her unique abilities to shine?
  • Are the planning strategies you’ve implemented been selected to ensure that your child can live a GREAT life today, tomorrow, and every day in the future?

Did you answer, “NO” to any of these questions? Did you hesitate to even begin having these types of planning conversations because you didn’t want to be pushed toward adopting a limited mindset about your child’s future? If so—this guide is for you!

HOW MUCH OF THIS GUIDE SHOULD YOU READ?

This guide is designed for you to read cover-to-cover. Each new chapter builds upon the previous one. A core idea that we want to reinforce is that Special Needs Planning should be comprehensive – including a plan for all five areas: Vision, Life, Resource, Financial, and Legal. Reading this guide from start to finish will help you connect the many moving parts of Special Needs Planning and create a plan that enables your loved one to live a purposeful and impactful life today – and every day in the future!

HOW WELL AM I PLANNED?

Still trying to decide whether to invest your time reading this guide? 

Families who follow the ENABLE Special Needs Planning approach score 5 out of 5 in all five areas of planning, for a total score of 25.

Take our self-assessment to determine how well you’ve planned and whether your family is ready for the future!

special needs planning

DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE GUIDE RIGHT NOW?

Not a problem! Let us send you the e-book version so you can download it and read it at your convenience! 

As a BONUS we’ll also include the Essential Special Needs Planning Checklist to help you make sure you’ve planned for everything!

Just tell us where to send your resources:

INTRODUCTION

I’m so excited to share with you some amazing things that I have learned in over a decade of serving families with children with special needs. I’ve put a lot of information in this guide because I want it to be impactful for you and your family. I promise your time investment in reading this guide will absolutely be worth it! So I hope you keep reading…

My name is Phillip Clark. I am the founder and president of ENABLE Special Needs Planning. In this guide I’m going to show you how you can create a comprehensive plan that allows your child to live a purposeful, impactful life.

Does that sound good to you? I’m excited to show you how!

I realize that all of you reading this guide are at different life stages and are reading this for your own unique reason.

However, I have a few assumptions about all of you that I’d like to share upfront:

First off, the most obvious assumption is that you have a child or loved one with special needs.

Another assumption that I have is that you desire that your child lives a life of purpose and impact—a life that inspires everyone in their path.

You know…This life of purpose and impact is a dream that we all have for our own lives. We want to make a difference in others’ lives, right? We all want to be purposeful and impactful to other people. And I assume you hope for the same for your child. Am I also correct in that?

The last assumption that I believe to be true, because you’re reading this guide, is that you are forward thinking and proactive when it comes to planning for a great life for your child! Does this describe your way of thinking? I believe that you wouldn’t have invested your time to read this guide if you weren’t proactively seeking ways to give your child an amazing life.

I want to congratulate you on thinking so positively about your child’s future and devoting the time and energy it takes to create a plan that will enable them to live a great life today – and every day in the future!

CHAPTER 1: SARAH'S STORY

Before we really get going with content, I want to quickly share with you some background about me and my family… and why I’m so passionate about Special Needs Planning.

When I was only four years old, my sister, Sarah, was born. I remember that day so clearly when they told me that I was finally a big brother. I had a younger sister who I had been waiting for months to see! I went to the hospital to meet her for the first time and it was everything I’d imagined. I felt so proud. I felt so important. I was her big brother. She was my little sister. It couldn’t have felt more perfect.

However, after Sarah was born, I noticed something seemed different in my Mom and Dad’s demeanor that I’d never seen in the past. They didn’t smile as much. They seemed worried. Looking back, it’s amazing how much a four year old can pick up on…

At the hospital, with newborn Sarah, my parents didn’t get the typical ‘Congratulations on your new baby girl!’ from the doctors. Instead my parents heard, “I’m sorry, but your daughter has Down syndrome,” and then proceeded to give my parents list after list of limited expectations for Sarah’s life.

During those early weeks and months of Sarah’s life, my parents heard things like: “Your daughter may never be able to ride a bicycle. Your daughter may never be in a mainstream class room. Your daughter may never be able to live independently.”

Those were just a few of the long list of limitations that doctors and other professionals gave my parents regarding the abilities that my sister would NOT have.

Have you ever been given similar limited expectations for your child’s life?

Naturally, for my parents, this was discouraging—even heartbreaking. They had so many big expectations for my sister’s life…

Since becoming an adult, my parents have shared with me that those two little words, “I’m sorry…” followed by a long list of limitations, instantly shattered the dreams they had for Sarah and her future.

Luckily for Sarah, my parents didn’t spend much time dwelling on their shattered dreams. While they didn’t know much about Down syndrome at the time – and they realized that life would look very different from what they had imagined for her – they still believed that Sarah could live a full, purposeful life!

One of the limitations that doctors warned my parents about with Sarah was that she might never be able to read. In their exact words, “Most of the time, Individuals with Down syndrome don’t learn to read. You should expect the same.”

However, if those doctors and professionals had followed Sarah’s life and were able to fast forward 30 years into the future… TODAY, they would find Sarah working in preschool and second grade classrooms where one of her many duties is tutoring the young students in reading.

Reading!

The exact skill that the doctors had said she would never be able to accomplish herself.

A few years ago, Sarah was working in the second grade classrooms, and there was a student who had fallen so far behind in his reading level that the teacher brought the parents in to discuss her concerns. The school year was only a few months from completion, and being able to read was such an important skill to move on to the third grade. Together, the teacher and parents decided that it would be best to hold the student back in the second grade for another year.

For one reason or another, the teacher paired Sarah with this student one-on-one for the rest of the semester. On a daily basis, he would spend time reading to her. She would read to him. Together they would work through comprehension worksheets.

When the end of the school year arrived, and the entire class’s reading ability was re-tested, to the teacher’s astonishment, the student had completely caught up with the rest of his peers! In fact, he was able to move on to the third grade with the rest of his friends!

On the last day of school, the student walked up to Sarah with a hand-written thank you card and a pad of stickers. He gave my sister a hug and quietly said, “Thank you.”

My mother shared this experience with me and explained how Sarah had been able to make an impact in this student’s life. Sarah listened as my mom recapped the story, and her demeanor visibly changed as my mom spoke. By the end of the story, Sarah was grinning from ear to ear and standing proudly in front of us.

She was so proud of the student! He had worked so hard to accomplish his goals. Sarah had seen the work he had put into improving his reading abilities.

However, I could tell that she was also proud of herself! She was proud that she had been able to impact the life of that child so dramatically.

At that moment, I became aware of what makes all of us feel purposeful: Having the ability to positively impact others’ lives. Being impactful is what gives each and every one of us a strong sense of purpose to our lives.

You and I are not unique in this ability. Sarah is not unique in that ability. Your child is no different. I believe that EVERYONE has the ability to be impactful!

Do you believe that? 

If so, keep reading! This guide is definitely for you. 

CHAPTER 2: YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO CREATE A SPECIAL NEEDS PLAN!

Now, I’m guessing this probably isn’t the first time you’ve read about planning for your child’s future.

  • Have you struggled trying to understand and create a special needs plan? 
  • Have you had a hard time even beginning to think about the planning process?
  • Do you have a basic plan in place but don’t feel 100% secure in it?

If you answered, “YES” to any of those questions, I want to let you know that it’s not your fault. 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed thinking about the future and trying to plan for it? Many times information overload keeps people from succeeding. I want you to know that you are not alone. There is so much information out there about ALL of the things that you need to think through.

Have you ever felt confused thinking about all of the decisions you know you need to make? Are you frustrated with the over-abundance of information out there that’s supposed to help you plan but instead leaves you wondering if you’re doing everything right? Maybe you even feel a bit nervous or afraid to think about your child’s future?

If you’ve been concerned in the past that you just can’t put all the pieces together to plan effectively, I want to put those fears to rest. You can do this! You just need the right team on your side that understands your unique situation and is able to explain and guide you through the process. This planning guide will help and is a great first step in your Special Needs Planning journey!

People often believe, because of the many moving pieces involved in special needs planning, that it’s going to take so much time and effort to create a plan that enables your child to live a great life. You’ve probably been told that, due to the many complexities of special needs planning, the process will be really expensive and take a lot of time and effort from you. Have you been told that? Are you worried about that?

I’m here to tell you that’s not true.

You have the ability to create a comprehensive special needs plan for your loved one – easily, efficiently, and affordably!

I know you have a dream for your child to live a purposeful and impactful life. And this guide is going to show you how you can make that happen!

This guide will help two types of people:

  1. The first group of people are just starting to think about what their child’s future could look like. If that’s you, this guide will help you think beyond any limitations others may have placed upon your child, and it will teach you how you can create a plan that allows your child to live a life of purpose and impact!
  2. The second group of people have already thought through what they want for their child’s future and may have already attempted to begin creating a plan that will allow their child to live a great life, but got bogged down by the many complexities of planning and preparing for the future. If that’s you, this guide will show you how to easily and efficiently complete all five steps of the planning process necessary to facilitate that great life you envision!
  3. At the end of the day, planning matters. By creating a plan for you and your family’s future – including a comprehensive special needs plan – you can achieve peace of mind knowing that you’re well-planned for, and your son or daughter with special needs can thrive today — and every day in the future.

    The only way to be sure that your child can truly live a life of purpose and impact is through creating a comprehensive special needs plan.

    The easiest way to create such a plan is by going through a detailed planning process, like the one we’ve created at ENABLE, that addresses all five key areas of planning.

    Keep reading to learn more!

CHAPTER 3: THE TRADITIONAL SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING INDUSTRY IS FAILING FAMILIES

My sister, Sarah, was such a big part of my life growing up.

As a child, I was involved in so many things that were crucial to her future success and growing abilities, like attending her therapy sessions and doctors’ appointments and coaching her Special Olympics teams.

As a teenager and young adult, a lot of my extracurricular activities included involvement with organizations that worked with individuals with disabilities, like Best Buddies.

From all of these experiences, I knew that “when I grew up,” I wanted to be in a profession that served families and individuals with special needs.

However, like many kids entering college, while I had a vague idea of the population I wanted to serve after graduation, I didn’t have a clear picture of what the particulars should look like.

After thinking about my options prior to beginning freshman year at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, IN, I chose to pursue a degree and career in Audiology. I believed that this would give me the ability to serve children with special needs and their families in a very important aspect of their success—helping them overcome many hearing impairments. While growing up, I had gone along to many audiologist appointments with my sister, and I thought I liked the idea of someday having my own practice where I focused on helping children with hearing disabilities.

My entry level audiology and speech therapy classes were really interesting! I learned a lot of fascinating details about how the human brain is able to learn language and communication at very young ages. The human brain is such an amazing creation!

Three years later, during my junior year at Purdue, I was still enjoying my classes and envisioning a career helping kids with hearing difficulties. It wasn’t until my sixth semester of college that we FINALY participated in our first audiology clinical experience. My classmates and I had spent the first half of our collegiate careers learning about how the brain processes language and getting to understand how speech therapy works. But now we were finally getting to the areas that I was most interested in: HEARING! Audiology.

I remember my first day of clinicals. I was so excited to begin pursuing my passion! My teacher paired me with another student who was also focused on audiology. During our first day of clinicals, we each had our own otoscope (a medical device which is used to look into the ears) and we were going to learn how to use them!

As I got ready to look into my partner’s ear, I envisioned myself in the future – in my very own practice – helping thousands of children by giving them the gift of better hearing!

However, what I saw through my otoscope made me flinch in my chair… 
All throughout my partner’s ear was… bright green and murky yellow ear wax!

I couldn’t even begin to find her ear drum! Even though that was the part of the ear that our instructor told us would be visible at first glance.

Right then and there I knew there had to be another way that I could serve families and children with special needs WITHOUT having to look into people’s ears for the rest of my life!

Immediately following that class, I scheduled a meeting with my academic advisor to discuss my concerns and talk about my options.

Instead of advising me to switch majors so far into my college career, my advisor (wisely) encouraged me to continue pursuing my audiology degree, but to also begin taking other classes that interested me. She assured me that I would be able to find other ways to serve families that drew upon my past experiences and my passions.

I was torn. I was more than three years into my college degree and unsure where my future was headed. I was still 100% sure that I wanted to work with families of children with special needs. I just didn’t know where to transfer my focus and attention…

I began taking some classes in personal finance, economics, and business. I had always been interested in these areas. Soon after that, I met with a professional who advised me to consider a career in financial planning that focused on helping families who have children with special needs create plans for their futures.

What a great idea! And how awesome it was that it combined so many of my interests and passions – without the need to look at earwax!

After graduating from Purdue University, I began my career as an advisor at a financial planning firm where I hoped to be able to work families that were much like my own. I was excited to begin helping families plan for amazing futures for their children – futures full of potential and impact.

However, as I learned more about the financial planning industry, I soon realized that the industry’s standard approach to “special needs planning” was very different from how I remembered my family planning for Sarah’s future.

I found that families were being guided through a cookie cutter process that helped them prepare financially for what would happen to their son or daughter IF they died, but didn’t do anything to help them feel secure in their ability to plan for and create a great life for their child TODAY.

Do you often find that the way you plan your daily life looks very different than the way many other families plan?

I know this was true for my family. Looking back, I realized there were so many things that we planned differently. Planning typical activities – like a dinner out or a family vacation – all looked different because Sarah was a part of our lives. The unique details of my family’s planning decisions included so much more than just the financial and legal decisions that the planning industry I was working in emphasized. That’s when I realized that the industry’s approach to planning was much different than what I believed Special Needs Planning needed to be.

Worse than that…

I began talking with my parents about the steps they’d taken and implemented to plan for Sarah’s future needs. I asked them about the strategies that their current financial and legal advisors had put in place to care for her.

To my astonishment, I learned that, had my parents passed away with their current plan in place, Sarah would have actually been worse off than if they hadn’t done any financial or legal planning in the first place!

I was shocked. And quite frankly, angered that they had been given such bad and inappropriate guidance that could have negatively affected my sister’s future.

Not only were my parents given a false sense of security, believing that they were well-prepared for Sarah’s future, but the planning industry’s standard approach to “comprehensive” special needs planning didn’t offer any help or guidance in many areas that I knew, from personal experience, were essential if Sarah was going to live a purposeful, impactful life. There was no plan in place that would allow Sarah to thrive. My parent’s plan only focused on preparing for life’s “What Ifs…” and even those details were incorrectly planned for!

Can you imagine my frustration?

I realized that if my parents had been misguided and given a false sense of security, there were likely many other families in the same situation, who didn’t realize their special needs plan was either incomplete, inaccurate, or both!

There I was, only a few years into my career, but I found myself at another major crossroad…

Option 1: Just do what every other “special needs planner” was doing. I could simply follow what everyone else was modeling for me and telling me to do. I could just focus on the financial planning aspects of special needs planning. Of course, I would make sure that the errors that I found in my parents’ plan were corrected and I would make sure that the families that I guided also avoided these drastic errors. Helping families with their financial planning, is, after all, a way to serve them and help them achieve some level of peace of mind about the future.

But I knew that special needs planning should do MORE than just prepare families for what happens when the parents die – do more than just implement financial strategies and create legal documents… Special Needs Planning should be focused on developing ABILITIES, pursuing PASSIONS, chasing DREAMS. All the things about my sister that I was most proud of—her unique abilities—SHOULD be included in the process of planning for her life TODAY… and every day in the future. A special needs planner should help guide families through all of these areas of planning. He or she should be able to see the big picture and quarterback families through a full array of planning decisions and details.

Option 2: Give families a way to plan better than their current options did. Since settling for mediocrity was not an acceptable approach when it came to helping my sister, I knew it couldn’t be my choice when it came to serving other individuals with special needs and their families. I had to make a change. I had to create a way of planning that would enable individuals to live out the amazing, impactful lives I knew they were capable of living!

However, I was fairly new to the planning industry. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it…

So I began talking with the families I knew personally who had loved ones with special needs (my parents included), about areas where they felt unprepared or future planning details that were confusing to them.

Through these conversations, I quickly learned that there were many aspects of the planning process that were unclear to families, even though they’d been working with financial and legal planning professionals. So many details about planning for the future were complex and hadn’t been fully explained to families in ways that were easy to understand. In general, the planning process seemed overwhelming, frustrating, and confusing.

And the worst part of it all – all of the planning decisions that families had made revolved around deciding how to make sure their loved one was taken care of if and when the parents died.

No one had helped these families comprehensively plan so that their child could continue developing their abilities and live a GREAT life right here and now, today, while the parents are around to see them thrive and enjoy their accomplishments!

Due to my personal experiences and background, having grown up watching my family – and other families around me – plan differently, it was time to change things.

I knew that families with children with special needs needed:

  • Strategies to overcome other people’s limited expectations for their child’s potential
  • To adopt an abundant mindset about their child’s future based on their ABILITIES
  • To paint the picture of what a GREAT life could look like for their child – today – and every day in the future
  • To begin planning for that GREAT life as soon as possible
  • To be able to measure progress toward goals, including the great life that they envisioned for their child
  • To be able to adjust their vision and plan along the way, as necessary, if life events occurred and details changed
  • To create a plan that could adapt to any unforeseen circumstances that might occur in the future
  • To be able to identify and celebrate milestones reached (both large and small) throughout their child’s life that aligned with their hopes and dreams
  • To prepare their family and friends for potential transitions in the future, whenever they might occur
  • To organize all the details involved with caring for a child with special needs (doctors, therapists, medications, food allergies, daily routines, key relationships, likes/dislikes, etc.)
  • To understand and fully utilize government benefits to assist their child
  • To connect with individuals, organizations, resources, and services that could help develop and nurture the ABILITIES that they saw in their child
  • To financially plan for opportunities TODAY that would allow their child to live a GREAT life
  • To financially prepare for future “What If’ scenarios, including what would happen if the parents could no longer take care of the child
  • To create a financial plan that protected and provided for their loved one with special needs but that also aligned with their entire family’s financial hopes and goals – and both plans needed to be successful

Most importantly, families needed:

  • To be able to complete all of this special needs planning in a way that was EASY, EFFICIENT, AND AFFORDABLE!

I spoke with the leaders of my financial planning firm, voicing my concerns that, as an industry, we weren’t serving families in ways that would be most impactful to them and their children.

However, due to strict compliance rules and regulations in the financial planning industry, my ideas about holistic planning were quickly shut down. I was told that it wasn’t my place to talk about anything other than finances with my planning clients. Things like incorporating an individual’s unique abilities into their plan or planning so they can thrive, living a GREAT life TODAY were just out of our domain, as a “special needs planner.” It would be up to the families to figure out all those things on their own.

At that point, I knew it was time to leave the traditional planning firm I was working with. I couldn’t stay associated with an organization – or industry – that didn’t understand or care about what the families I was serving actually NEEDED the most.

That’s when I created ENABLE Special Needs Planning.

At ENABLE, we fully prepare families for future “What Ifs…” but that’s not the main focus of our planning process.

Instead, we help families create custom plans that allow their loved ones to thrive TODAY – and every day in the future. And our planning process specifically incorporates the unique abilities, hopes, goals, and dreams of the individuals we serve throughout every step of the planning journey.

 I am thrilled to be able to serve families in this way – a way that I believe is much more impactful than what the traditional special needs planning industry currently offers. And I can’t wait to share more with you about how you, too, can create a Special Needs Plan that allows your child to live a purposeful, impactful life using the process and system I developed. 

special needs planning

DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE GUIDE RIGHT NOW?

Not a problem! Let us send you the e-book version so you can download it and read it at your convenience! 

As a BONUS we’ll also include the Essential Special Needs Planning Checklist to help you make sure you’ve planned for everything!

Just tell us where to send your resources:

CHAPTER 4: WHAT IS SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING?

Consider these statements…

  • “My child won’t ever be able to do ____.”
  • “We need to figure out how we are going to support our child when we, as parents, are gone.”
  • “How can we make sure our government benefits cover all of our expenses?”
  • “We have to make sure we have a sound strategy to fund our Special Needs Trust.”

These statements – uttered by both parents and professionals – are made daily because my industry has made special needs planning into a process that is focused on keeping families stuck with limited expectations and a limited mindset about the future.

At ENABLE, we are here to change that.

Now, consider these contrasting statements instead…

  • “Your child has amazing abilities that are unique to him or her!”
  • “Your child has an abundant future with amazing potential!”
  • “My child’s abilities need to be the focus of our future planning conversations.”
  • “My child will be able to live a life that is purposeful and impactful to others.”

Which conversation would you rather have?

Special Needs Planning should be about creating an abundant life and future for your loved one that is unique and tailored to his or her own abilities, hopes, and dreams. Sure, we need to address challenges, roadblocks, and bumps along the way. We all face those. But when we think about our own lives, we don’t only focus on challenges.

Why should planning for the future of your loved one with special needs be any different?

If we only focus on what happens if and when, you as parents are no longer here OR if we only focus on the limitations that we see today—the outcome of our planning process is going to be just that—limited.

Northwestern Mutual conducted a study in 2015 finding that only 33% of families have a written plan for their family’s future.

From what our team at ENABLE has seen as we’ve traveled the country working with families — that percentage appears to be even smaller for families who have loved ones with special needs!

Because most special needs planning conversations are focused on life’s “What If’s” and only address how to overcome challenges, it’s easy to understand why families don’t want to have these conversations. Or, if they do start planning, it is the reason why they don’t follow through on the planning strategies recommended to them by industry professionals.

But what would happen if we were to change all of that? What if the focus of planning was to answer the question: “What does a purposeful and impactful life look like for your child today – AND – every day in the future?”

All families need to plan for the future – typical or otherwise – but the need to develop a plan now is exponentially more important for families who have a loved one with special needs.

  • Have the planning conversations you’ve had been focused primarily on your child’s unique hopes, goals, and dreams?
  • Are you confident that your special needs plan was designed so that your child has every opportunity to live a life that allows his or her unique abilities to shine?
  • Are the planning strategies you’ve implemented been selected to ensure that your child can live a GREAT life today, tomorrow, and every day in the future?

If you answered “NO” to any of these questions — or you’ve hesitated to even begin having these types of planning conversations because you didn’t want to be pushed toward adopting a limited mindset about your child’s future — this guide is for you! I hope you’ll keep reading!

At ENABLE, we believe that your child was made on purpose, and for a purpose. We believe that your child has the ability to live an impactful life where he or she makes a difference in the lives of others. We also believe that our conversations about the future always need to be focused on your child’s unique abilities, hopes, goals, and dreams.

The next five chapters (chapters 5-9) will explain in detail the five essential areas of special needs planning.

The last chapter of this guide (chapter 10) will introduce you to the ENABLE 5-Step Special Needs Planning System and explain the process our team at ENABLE takes clients through that allows them to create plans that enable their loved ones to live abundant lives TODAY – and every day in the future – tailored to their own abilities, hopes, dreams, and goals.

CHAPTER 5: THE VISION PLAN

VISION PLANNING FAQS

WHAT IS VISION PLANNING?

Vision Planning is the first essential step toward creating a comprehensive Special Needs Plan.

Your Vision Plan helps you paint a picture of what a great life looks like for your child today, tomorrow, and every day in the future. What this means is — your Vision Plan will describe your hopes, goals, and dreams for your child, as well as his or her hopes, goals, and dreams.

Your Vision Plan is the foundation and backbone of your entire special needs planning process. Every planning decision that you make throughout the other four areas of planning should come back to and align with your loved one’s Vision Plan.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF VISION PLANNING?

The true benefits of creating a Vision Plan are that:

  1. You will have a clearly defined purpose for creating a special needs plan,
  2. You’ll know the destination that your planning is aiming for, and
  3. You’ll be motivated to complete the remaining four steps of the special needs planning process to ensure that your vision becomes a reality.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD MY VISION PLAN ANSWER?

Your Vision Plan should include answers to questions such as:

  • What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s abundant life?
  • What abilities do you see in him or her that you want to encourage and nurture?
  • What does a great life for your child look like now, in 10-15 years, and in 25+ years?

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY VISION PLAN?

We highly encourage families to update their loved one’s Vision Plan every year, as key details are likely to change over time. Also, when your child is ready, we encourage you to include them in your planning process. It is their life you’re planning for, after all. Thus, it’s important to understand what they envision for their life today and their future.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT VISION PLANNING? To learn more about Vision Planning, check out our blog post Vision Planning: What’s Your Vision of a Great Life for Your Child? HOW DOES THE ENABLE VISION PLAN TOOL WORK? The ENABLE Vision Plan tool is fully guided and makes it EASY for families to create Vision Plans by chatting with the ENABLE team and walking through a series of interactive questions about their hopes and dreams for the future. After completing the online questionnaire, the Vision Plan tool auto-creates a fully designed Vision Plan PDF describing the family’s vision for their child’s GREAT life. This document is downloadable and sharable. It is also stored inside the family’s secure, online planning portal. As life events happen and details about their child and their vision for the future change, families can log back into their planning portal accounts and easily edit and update their Vision Plans. The ENABLE Vision Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/ Let’s Start Planning! Ok! You’re ready to create a Vision Plan for your loved one with special needs. Just follow the steps below to start planning!
  1. Review the following list of questions and begin brainstorming answers to each question:
    • What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s abundant life?
    • What does a GREAT life look like for your child, in terms of their level of independence, social life, spiritual life, education, job or vocation, home environment, etc.?
    • What abilities do you see in your child that you want to encourage and nurture?
    • What does a great life for your child look like now, in 10-15 years, and in 25+ years?
    • What has been your child’s greatest accomplishment to date?
          • Why do you feel that this is his or her greatest accomplishment?
          • What made it such a great accomplishment?
          • Did your son or daughter see this as a great accomplishment, too?
  2. Share the above list of questions with everyone who you’d like to be involved in your Vision Planning process. You may want to include your child’s grandparents or other close relatives, family friends, teachers, doctors, therapists, coaches, etc. – anyone who knows your child well, loves them, and would like to help contribute to them living a GREAT life. This group can be as large or small as you’d like. Share the list of questions with your son or daughter if he or she is able to contribute to envisioning a great life for him- or her- self!
  3. Schedule a time to meet with all of the individuals who you’ve shared this list of Vision Planning questions with to discuss them and receive feedback. Set a specific amount of time for this discussion (90 minutes to two hours usually works well!)
  4. Assign someone to facilitate this discussion. You may want to lead the discussion or you may feel more comfortable assigning a more neutral observer to the role of facilitator. The facilitator will make sure everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and will keep the discussion moving and on schedule, so as to not overburden any of the individuals you’ve asked to participate in the meeting.
  5. Assign someone to take notes on your planning session. Again, you may want to play this role of notetaker – or you may want to assign this role to someone else who is less intimately tied to the conversation so that you’re free to simply participate. In addition to having someone take notes, it can also be helpful to audio or video record your session so that you can go back later to review the discussion.
  6. Hold your Vision Planning session. Your facilitator will make sure everyone has a chance to contribute to the conversation and share their vision of what a great life could look like for your child. All ideas are good ideas at this stage. But as the parent, remember, you will ultimately make the final decisions about your child’s future plan, with his or her input, as appropriate.
  7. After your Vision Planning meeting, clearly document all of the responses from your session and share the document with the group participants. If you’ve determined specific roles and tasks for everyone to play to help your child make progress toward your vision of a great life, make sure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities moving forward.
  8. Review and update your Vision Plan every year as your son or daughter grows and develops and your/their hopes, goals, and dreams change.
To help make sure you’ve thought through everything, we’ve created a BONUS Vision Plan checklist for you to use. Download this guide by clicking the yellow “Send me my FREE copy!” button below to receive access to the checklist now.

CHAPTER 6: THE LIFE PLAN

LIFE PLANNING FAQS

WHAT IS LIFE PLANNING?

Life Planning is the second step toward creating a comprehensive Special Needs Plan. You may be familiar with a Letter of Intent and/or Family Narrative. Your Life Plan should include both of those elements, plus additional essential details about your child.

In your Life Plan, you’ll want to record every essential detail of your child’s life, including details about your child’s daily routine, personal preferences, doctors, therapies, and medications, and much more — basically, all of the details about your child’s life that perhaps right now you only know in your head! It’s important to organize your Life Plan document in a way that’s easy to navigate and update.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LIFE PLANNING?

The true benefit of creating a Life Plan is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if something happened where you had to leave your child — for a quick trip or through a permanent transition — that someone else would have all of the necessary information in an organized, easily accessible and updatable document, that would allow them to step in to love and care for your child as seamlessly as possible and carry out the vision for their life that you have planned for.

WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD MY LIFE PLAN INCLUDE?

Your Life Plan should include all of the important information and details about your child and family across the following five areas:

  1. Information About Your Child or Loved One with Special Needs
  2. Health History and Medical Records for Your Child or Loved One with Special Needs
  3. Government Benefit Information for Your Child or Loved One with Special Needs
  4. Information About Your Family
  5. Your Transition Plan

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY LIFE PLAN?

We highly encourage families to update their loved one’s Life Plan every year as key details are likely to change over time.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT SPECIAL NEEDS LIFE PLANNING?

To learn more about Life Planning, check out our blog post Life Planning: If You Won a Weekend Getaway, Would You be Prepared to Leave Your Child with a Family Member?

HOW DOES THE ENABLE LIFE PLAN TOOL WORK?

Like the ENABLE Vision Plan tool, the ENABLE Life Plan tool is fully guided and makes it EASY for families to create a “guidebook about their child” by walking them through interactive questions about their child and their family. Our team has taken the guesswork out of making sure families have recorded every important detail!

After completing the questionnaire, the Life Plan tool auto-creates a fully designed Life Plan PDF describing all of the important details about the family and child with special needs. This document is downloadable and sharable. It is also stored inside the family’s secure, online planning portal. As life events happen and details about their family situation or child change, families can log back into their planning portal accounts and easily edit and update their Life Plan.

The ENABLE Life Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

LET’S START PLANNING!

Ok! You’re ready to create a Life Plan for your loved one with special needs. Just follow the steps below to start planning!

  1. Determine who will be involved in creating your child’s Life Plan. While you may have found it helpful to include family and friends as you created your child’s Vision Plan, the Life Plan is something that is best created by the individual(s) who knows your child best. Most likely, that’s you. Your Life Plan will include a lot of important information and key details about your child and family.
  2. Review the following questions…
    • What does a typical day in the life of your child look like (including times of day and routines/rituals)?
    • Have you recorded names and contact information for all of the important individuals in your child’s life? (e.g., Family members, Friends, Doctors, Therapists, Government Benefit contacts)?
      • Where is this information stored?
    •  Have you documented other important information about your child? (e.g., details of your child’s medical health history, details about your child’s daily routines including weekdays and weekends, details about your child’s personality and preferences, details about your child’s dietary needs, medications, and food allergies, details about your child’s religious preferences, recreational activities, and other unique likes/dislikes)
  3. Use the template below to create your Life Plan. Remember to write down everything you can think of that would be important for a temporary caregiver now – or a permanent future guardian. It will probably be easiest to create a Word document on your computer where you can easily answer and update your responses as details change.

Module 1: Information About Your Child/Loved One with Special Needs

The first module of your Life Plan should address the following topics:

  • Birth Information
  • Clothing and Shoe Sizes
  • Daily Routine Information
  • Times and Preferences
  • Hygiene Habits
  • Meals and Dietary Requirements
  • Personality Traits
  • Leisure and Recreation

Module 2: Health History and Medical Records for Your Child/Loved One with Special Needs

The second module of your Life Plan should address the following topics:

  • Diagnoses
  • Physical Abilities
  • Allergies and Other Dietary Needs
  • Medications
  • Devices
  • Medical Professionals
  • Medical Insurances

Module 3: Government Benefit Information for Your Child/Loved One with Special Needs

The third module of your Life Plan should address the following topics:

  • Federal Benefits and Services
  • Income Benefits
  • Medical Benefits
  • Housing Benefits
  • State and Private Benefits and Services

Module 4: Information About Your Family

The fourth module of your Life Plan should address the following topics:

  • Information about Parent(s)
  • Information about Sibling(s)
  • Legal Relationships

Module 5: Your Transition Plan

The fifth and final module of your Life Plan should address the following topics:

  • In Case of Emergency
  • Vision for Your Child’s Life When You’re No Longer Able to Care for Him or Her
  • Key Milestones and Major Life Transitions

4.  Save an electronic copy of your Life Plan so that you can easily update it as details change. It can be helpful to save a copy in the Cloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or other web-based storage location where you can access the details from anywhere.
5.  You may also find it helpful to save a hardcopy of your Life Plan in a home safe, safety deposit box, or other secure location.
6.  Make sure key family members/friends know where your Life Plan is saved – either electronically or a hardcopy – so that they can easily access all of the important details about your child to love and care for them in the future, if you’re ever unable to do so.

To help make sure you’ve thought through everything, we’ve created a BONUS Life Plan checklist for you to use. Download this guide by clicking the yellow “Send me my FREE copy!” button below to receive access to the checklist now.

CHAPTER 7: THE RESOURCE PLAN

RESOURCE PLANNING FAQS

WHAT IS RESOURCE PLANNING?

Resource Planning is the third step toward creating a comprehensive Special Needs Plan. Your Resource Plan should identify the types of organizations, services, and individuals in your area who can help your child make progress toward your vision for his or her great life. What this means is — your Resource Plan should analyze the current resources you’ve connected with, assess any gaps, and then connect you with additional resources that could help your child thrive.


BENEFITS OF SPECIAL NEEDS RESOURCE PLANNING:

The true benefit of creating a Resource Plan is that it will help you think outside of the box and connect with innovative therapies, in addition to essential resources, to ensure that your child is living his or her best possible life today, tomorrow, and every day in the future.

WHAT SHOULD MY RESOURCE PLAN ADDRESS?

Your Resource Plan should answer the question:

Which services, organizations, and individuals should we seek out now and in the future to make your vision of a great life for your child a reality?

Every individual is unique in their abilities and needs. Thus, no two Resource Plans should be exactly the same. Also, individuals’ abilities and needs change over time. Therefore, your Resource Plan should continue evolving as your child grows and develops.

  • For some individuals, physical and occupational therapies may be most important resources to connect with immediately.
  • Other individuals might benefit from engaging with organizations that offer job and social skills training programs.
  • Still others may benefit most by participating in innovative therapies (e.g., art, music, aquatic, or horseback-riding therapy) to improve self-esteem and emotional expression.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY RESOURCE PLAN?

We highly encourage families to update their loved one’s Resource Plan every year as key details are likely to change over time.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT SPECIAL NEEDS RESOURCE PLANNING?
To learn more about Resource Planning, check out our blog post Resource Planning: Does Your Child have Access to All the Resources They Need to Thrive? How Would You Know?


HOW DOES THE ENABLE RESOURCE PLAN TOOL WORK?

Creating a Resource Plan with ENABLE requires little work on your part!

Instead, during this step of your planning journey, our team analyzes the information you provide us with during the Resource Assessment session, conducted in-person at our Indianapolis headquarters or via video conference call. Then we create a document for you providing recommendations about services, organizations, and individuals you should connect with to help your child learn, grow, and excel. If you’re open to introductions, we will also put you in direct contact with an organization(s) in your geographical area who can assist you with securing all of the services we recommend for your child.

The ENABLE Resource Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Let’s Start Planning!
Ok! You’re ready to create a Resource Plan for your loved one with special needs. Just follow the steps below to start planning!

  1. Review your child’s Vision Plan. What common themes emerge? Are there clear hopes, goals, and dreams that you and your child hope to move toward? What should a great life look like this year?
  2. Consider the doctors, therapists, and service organizations you’re currently working with, as document in your child’s Life Plan. Are there any gaps in the services your child is currently receiving and the goals you’re pushing toward based on your Vision Plan?
  3. Answer the following questions…
    • How have traditional and innovative therapies positively impacted your child’s life?
    • What therapies/services have been most beneficial to your child?
    • In what areas of your child’s life have they demonstrated exceptional levels of self-confidence?
    • In what types of situations does your child feel most in his/her element?
    • Right now – what abilities does your child need the most help developing (e.g., speech, motor skills, occupational skills, money skills, job skills/training, interpersonal skills)
    • As your child’s abilities develop and change, what additional services could be beneficial?
  4. Determine what types of organizations, services, and individuals would be most beneficial to connect with at this time to help your child make progress toward your vision for his or her great life and truly thrive. If you saw gaps between your goals and what you’re currently doing, make sure to reach out to the appropriate resources in your area to help fill those gaps.
  5. Make any and all necessary connections with community organizations and resources who can help you and your child move forward toward achieving your hopes, goals, and dreams of a GREAT life. Reaching out to your state’s Family Voices organization may be a good starting point. Learn more by visiting: http://familyvoices.org/
  6. Document where you are currently – include the individuals, organizations, and services you’re currently connected with – and then describe the additional resources you plan to reach out to that will help you and your child make progress toward future goals.
  7. Review and revise your child’s Resource Plan every year as details change so that your child can continue making progress.

To help make sure you’ve thought through everything, we’ve created a BONUS Resource Plan checklist for you to use. Download this guide by clicking the yellow “Send me my FREE copy!” button below to receive access to the checklist now.

special needs planning

DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE GUIDE RIGHT NOW?

Not a problem! Let us send you the e-book version so you can download it and read it at your convenience! 

As a BONUS we’ll also include the Essential Special Needs Planning Checklist to help you make sure you’ve planned for everything!

Just tell us where to send your resources:

CHAPTER 8: THE FINANCIAL PLAN*

FINANCIAL PLANNING FAQS

WHAT IS FINANCIAL PLANNING?

Financial Planning is the fourth step toward creating a comprehensive Special Needs Plan. A Financial Plan should analyze your family’s current situation to determine where you’re doing well and where you need to become more efficient with your finances so that you can enable your entire family — including your child with special needs—to enjoy a wonderful life. What this is means is — Financial Planning should educate, organize, and prepare you to meet all of your family’s current and future needs.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FINANCIAL PLANNING?

The true benefit of creating a Financial Plan is you will have the necessary strategies that, if applied appropriately today, will allow you to feel confident that you’re doing everything possible to enable your family to thrive now and in the future.

WHAT SHOULD MY FINANCIAL PLAN DO?

Your Financial Plan should do three main things:

  1. Provide the means to pay for the goals you have created in your loved one’s Vision Plan, and
  2. Address the challenges of how to provide the resources needed, as determined by your Resource Plan.
  3. Answer the concern of how to provide for your child for his/her lifetime, when you are not here to provide for them.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY FINANCIAL PLAN?
We highly encourage families to update their loved one’s Financial Plan every year, as key details are likely to change over time.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT FINANCIAL PLANNING?

To learn more about Financial Planning, check out our blog post Financial Planning: Does Your Financial Plan Account for the Abundant Hopes and Dreams You Have for Your Child?

HOW DOES THE ENABLE FINANCIAL PLAN TOOL WORK? Creating a Financial Plan with ENABLE is a collaborative process! To get started, the ENABLE Financial Plan tool walks you through a series of key questions to evaluate your current level of financial preparedness. You will also need to share various key financial documents and details with the ENABLE team. After completing the assessment and sharing your records, the ENABLE team analyzes your current financial situation and develops recommendations for how to improve your current situation and plan. You and one of the ENABLE financial advisors will schedule a series of phone and/or video calls to discuss your family’s current financial situation and strategies for improving it and reaching your goals. Then, after you and your advisor have developed a thorough and effective plan, the ENABLE team will implement the strategies necessary to allow both your family’s financial situation and your loved one with special needs’ financial situation to thrive simultaneously. After creating your initial financial plan, comprehensive financial planning clients will continue to meet with an ENABLE advisor at least once per year, to review and adjust their plan as life events occur and key details change. The ENABLE Financial Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/ In our experience, we have found that many families delay creating a Financial Plan—not because they view it as unimportant—but because they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused by the process. When ENABLE team works with families on their Financial Planning, our intention is to make their process as easy, efficient, and affordable as possible. We empower the families we serve to feel well-prepared for their futures. Let’s Start Planning! Ok! You’re ready to create a Financial Plan for your loved one with special needs. Just follow the steps below to start planning!
  1. First, you should be aware that the details of a special needs financial plan are more complex than a typical family’s financial plan. For this reason, it’s important to do your homework and be sure you feel confident planning in this area.
  2. You may find it helpful to register for and complete the JarredBunch** JB WealthFIT online course. It’s not just about retirement. It’s about setting yourself up today for a healthy financial future. To live the life you want to live…today, and in the future. This financial education course is designed to provide you with the tools and resources necessary for making smarter financial decisions – to reach your full financial potential. Learn more here: https://jarredbunch.com/jbwealthfit/
  3. Additionally, the following resources will help you get started with your financial planning:
    1. Download the free “Live the Life You Want” e-book
    2. Take the exercise to Discover your WHY for Money
    3. Get a Free Retirement Plan Check-up, Score Your 401(k), and Analyze Your Investment Strategies using three tools available from the homepage of the JarredBunch website
  4. Review the following Rules for Financial Success: Ideally, achieving financial balance should be your first goal. This can be done by adhering to THREE simple rules that ready you for growth:
    • RULE #1: Become a first class saver by saving 15%-20% of your income annually. This is one of the most important ingredients to reaching your full financial potential. If you can’t do this, then everything else has to work that much harder. It puts additional pressure on all other aspects of your financial life, including a greater likelihood of failure! What is standing in the way of your saving this amount? Write it down. Figure out how to overcome these obstacles so you can reach your full financial potential. Hint: Remember, your financial model can help you find lost opportunity. You can recapture those dollars, and add that to your savings.
    • RULE #2: You should always have at 3-6 months of cold hard cash on hand. It would even be wise to have 6-12 months of near-cash (i.e. short-term bonds) that are easily accessible as well. A cash cushion provides multiple benefits, such as giving you the ability to increase your insurance deductibles and lower your premium payments. It gives you peace of mind knowing that whatever short-term obstacle (accident, fire, job loss, illness) may pop up that you can easily handle it without having to go into debt. Plus, you have the ability to capitalize on an opportunity that may present itself, take a trip, make a substantial purchase (whether it be something you need or simply want) and more.
      1. Cash can also make you a happier person in general. In Jonathan Clements’ book, How to Think About Money, his research found that those with cash on hand – and in the bank – were much happier than those without any or with small amounts. HELPFUL TIP:  Opt out of your 401(k) until you have built up your short-term liquidity! Take care of today first and you will be better equipped to take care of tomorrow. Statistics show that 28% of all 401(k)s have loans against them, and it’s because this liquidity bucket is neglected or never filled to being with.
      2. Understanding the 401(k):
        • 10% penalty if you withdraw before 59 ½
        • Taxed as ordinary income
        • Limited investment options
        • Must withdraw a portion at 70 ½ or suffer a penalty
        • Match can go away
        • Can create double taxation
        • Can’t use it to pay for other life events
        • Typically use more expensive mutual funds Are all 401(k)s bad? NO! If your company has one and they provide a company match, you should at least participate to the point of the match. But not until after you have sufficient liquidity. Discuss this with your personal advisor.
    • RULE #3: Short-term debt should be zero. Period. Liabilities are what hold most people back. Short-term debt negates any future profits on your balance sheet. For example, $19,200 debt x 5% interest (lost opportunity) = $253,570 in 10 years. In 20 years, it’s upwards of $666,000.
      1. Two of the most common short-term expenses among our clients are automobiles and credit cards. Cars depreciate 50% after the first three years on average. Look for used cars with low mileage that you can drive for a long time. You can often find a used car that is 25% cheaper than a new car. So if you must carry auto debt, then do it smarter.
      2. Credit card debt can wreak havoc on your financial life. Interest rates average around 15%. That’s extremely high! This is exactly why Rule #2 is so important. If you have adequate liquidity not only can you pay off your credit cards every month, but you can limit what you charge on them since you have the ability to pay for things in cash. Think of it this way – if you have credit card debt carrying 15% interest, every dollar you don’t completely pay off costs you $0.15 each year. While there are always special circumstances, a good general rule of thumb to live by is if you can’t pay for it in cash, you probably can’t afford it.
      3. You may need to slow down short-term debt payments in order to build liquidity and get protection in place first. You may even need to restructure your debt. But it is critical that you follow this order to provide relief, reduce stress, and build the foundation for growth.
  5. After fully evaluating your family’s current financial situation, consider and discuss the following questions regarding special needs financial planning:
    • How much money will it take, in today’s dollars, to provide your loved one with all of the services, resources, and opportunities to ensure that he or she lives a great life?
    • If you weren’t here to provide for your child, what are some activities and amenities you would want to make sure your child had access to?
    • Does your personal/family financial plan align with your Special Needs financial plan?
    • Is your financial professional aware of your Special Needs Vision, Life, and Resource Plans? Has he/she created your personal/family and Special Needs financial plans to achieve your outlined goals?
    • Have you discussed your Special Needs financial plan with potential future guardians?
  6. Implement any and all strategies to ensure that your family and your loved one with special needs are financially secure today – and every day in the future – no matter what happens.
  7. Annually, review and update your financial plan as details about you and your family change and evolve.
To help you make sure you’ve thought through everything, we’ve created a BONUS Financial Plan checklist for you to use. Download this guide by clicking the yellow “Send me my FREE copy!” button below to receive access to the checklist now.

*None of the information presented in this Ultimate Guide is to be construed as financial or legal advice. A financial advisor/attorney will be able to guide you in making planning decisions for your family. Every family’s situation is different and unique. Please consult your financial/legal professional for specific recommendations.

**JarredBunch is an independent Registered Investment Advisory whose mission is to educate, guide and counsel its clients to achieve their full financial potential. Phillip C. Clark, Founder & President of ENABLE Special Needs Planning, is an Investment Advisor Representative through JarredBunch.

Read our full Disclosure statement here: ​Important Disclosures

CHAPTER 9: THE LEGAL PLAN*​

LEGAL PLANNING FAQS

WHAT IS LEGAL PLANNING?

The Legal Plan is the fifth, and final, essential step of your comprehensive Special Needs Plan that ensures that all of the plans you’ve created for your loved one with special needs—Vision, Life, Resource, and Financial—are carried out according to your wishes and preparations.

When combined with the Resource Plan and Financial Plan, your Legal Plan will help your child fulfill the hopes and dreams of their Vision Plan and reach the destination you’ve envisioned for him or her.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LEGAL PLANNING?

Your Legal Plan should educate, organize, and prepare you to make the inevitable decisions necessary to ensure that your family, including your child with special needs, is properly protected and planned for. What this means is — your Legal Plan should equip you with the information and knowledge you need to understand the legal components of special needs planning, including wills, trusts, and guardianship, and it will connect you with a pre-screened expert attorney who understands the complexities of special needs legal planning.

WHAT SHOULD MY LEGAL PLAN DO?

The true benefit of creating a Legal Plan is that it will empower you to be in control of your legal planning process and provides you with the confidence that comes from knowing that the legal decisions you make today, align with your future vision for your family’s great life.


HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY LEGAL PLAN?

We highly encourage families to update their loved one’s Legal Plan anytime key details change, or at least every five years.

Let’s Start Planning!

Ok! You’re ready to create a Legal Plan for your loved one with special needs. Just follow the steps below to start planning!

  1. Consider and discuss the following questions with your family:
    • What level of monitoring and/or oversight does your child need to make wise decisions?
    • Is your child currently able to make his or her own decisions regarding health care, financial matters, and/or legal matters?
    • Do you see this changing in the future?
    • Have you selected and appointed a future guardian for your child, in the event of your passing or inability to care for him or her?
    • Does your guardian understand the Special Needs Planning you have completed to date? Does he/she align with the goals of your plan and intend to carry out your plan according to your wishes?
    • If you’re working with an attorney, does he/she understand your Vision, Life, Resource, and Financial Plans?
    • Does your attorney’s legal counsel and planning strategies ensure that your goals for your child’s GREAT life will become a reality?
  2. Special Needs legal documents have to be very precisely worded to be effective and useful. Be sure to seek out an attorney in your area who specializes in Special Needs Planning and has ample experience developing Special Needs Trusts.
  3. If you’d like help finding a qualified attorney, schedule a call with our team and we can refer you to a professional who we’ve prescreened and determined is qualified to help you with your legal planning needs.
  4. Together, you and your attorney will determine the appropriate documents to create to protect your family today – and every day in the future.
  5. Be sure to review and update these documents whenever major changes occur in your life, the lives of your family members, of the life of your loved one with special needs. Even if no major changes have occurred recently, you should review your legal documents at least every five years to ensure they remain up-to-date and accurate.

To help you make sure you’ve thought through everything, we’ve created a BONUS Legal Plan checklist for you to use. Download this guide by clicking the yellow “Send me my FREE copy!” button below to receive access to the checklist now.

*None of the information presented in this Ultimate Guide is to be construed as financial or legal advice. A financial advisor/attorney will be able to guide you in making planning decisions for your family. Every family’s situation is different and unique. Please consult your financial/legal professional for specific recommendations.

Read our full Disclosure statement here: Important Disclosures

 

CHAPTER 10: THE ENABLE 5-STEP SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING SYSTEM

Now that you understand what the five essential areas of Special Needs Planning are and how to create plans for your family in each area, we’d like to share some brief information about the ENABLE 5-Step Special Needs Planning System and explain how our team serves families, making it easier for them to create a comprehensive plan that enables their entire family – including their loved one with special needs – to thrive today, tomorrow, and every day in the future!

Have you ever worried…

Have you ever worried about your child’s future? Wondered who would step in to love and care for him or her if you were no longer able to do so? Are you overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the details swirling around inside your head — doctors, therapies, medications, IEPs, government benefits? Do you long for your child to succeed in school, find a job that fits their abilities, and build meaningful social connections? Are you concerned that you might not be able to afford all of the resources to help your child truly thrive? Does planning for the future feel impossible because you barely have time to plan for today?

Most parents of children with special needs struggle with these same questions. You’re not alone and the ENABLE 5-Step System will help you address these concerns and many more!

Step 1. The VISION Plan
Create a clear vision for your child’s best possible life. This vision will guide and direct every other step of your planning process.

Step 2. The LIFE Plan
Easily record, access, and update all the essential details about your child—doctors, therapists, medications, IEPs, important relationships, likes/dislikes, daily routines, etc.—using the fully-guided, interactive life plan tool our team developed. Never again have to rack your brain for key details, simply look them up in your child’s life plan. Achieve peace of mind knowing that a babysitter—or future caregiver—has everything they need to care for your child, in your absence.

Step 3. The RESOURCE Plan
Sit back and relax while our team analyzes the resources you’re currently connected with for potential gaps. We’ll let you know if there are any additional organizations, individuals, or services you should seek out to help you and your child move toward your vision for a great life.

Step 4. The FINANCIAL Plan
Let the experienced financial planning professionals on our team assess your current financial situation. We will recommend strategies that will allow both your family’s financial future – and your son or daughter’s financial future – to be secure. Already have a financial advisor you like working with? Not a problem. Our team will provide an expert-perspective second opinion on your special needs financial plan with no obligation to implement strategies with us.

Step 5. The LEGAL Plan
Use the resources our team has developed to educate yourself about relevant legal considerations—wills, trusts, guardianship, etc. Feel empowered and prepared to create the necessary legal documents to protect your family. Then let our team introduce you to a qualified special needs planning attorney, in your geographic area, who we’ve prescreened and determined is fully competent to help you with your legal needs.

When all five areas of planning are aligned and working together, you and your family can relax knowing that your future is well planned for. You’ll also be able to provide every opportunity for your son or daughter with special needs to live a purposeful and impactful life today – and every day in the future.

Get Started, for FREE, Today!

The ENABLE online planning portal is FREE and available for you to access from the ease and convenience of your own home, as often as you’d like.

Sign up for your FREE account by clicking here and start planning for your loved one’s GREAT life today!

Inside the online planning portal, we provide you with the following resources:

  • Educational videos that explain the comprehensive Special Needs Planning process and help you get into the right mindset to begin planning
  • Planning checklists for all five areas of comprehensive Special Needs Planning
  • Planning questions to consider as you complete all five areas of comprehensive Special Needs Planning
  • Planning document storage
  • Planning self-assessment tool

Plan with ENABLE!

If you decide to partner with ENABLE to complete your special needs planning, we provide the following additional services beyond the FREE resources described above:

Step 1. The VISION Plan

  • (1) 30-minute “VISIONARY” session with ENABLE team
  • Interactive, fully-guided Vision Plan tool
  • Unlimited access to edit responses using the interactive questionnaire
  • Autocreation of a downloadable PDF with responses to all Vision
    Plan questions that can be shared with family, friends, and other caregivers

HOW DOES THE ENABLE VISION PLAN TOOL WORK?

The ENABLE Vision Plan tool is fully guided and makes it EASY for families to create Vision Plans by chatting with the ENABLE team and walking through a series of interactive questions about their hopes and dreams for the future. After completing the questionnaire, the Vision Plan tool auto-creates a fully designed Vision Plan PDF describing the family’s vision for their child’s GREAT life. This document is downloadable and sharable. It is also stored inside the family’s secure, online planning portal. As life events happen and details about their child and their vision for the future change, families can log back into their planning portal accounts and easily edit and update their Vision Plans.

The ENABLE Vision Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Step 2. The LIFE Plan

  • Interactive, fully-guided Life Plan tool that gathers: (1) Information About Your Child, (2) Health History and Medical Record Details about Your Child, (3) Government Benefit Information for Your Child, (4) Information About Your Family, (5) Transition Details
  • Unlimited access to edit responses using the interactive questionnaire
  • Autocreation of a downloadable PDF with responses to all Life Plan questions that can be shared with family, friends, and other caregivers

HOW DOES THE ENABLE LIFE PLAN TOOL WORK?

Like the ENABLE Vision Plan tool, the ENABLE Life Plan tool is fully guided and makes it EASY for families to create a “guidebook about their child” by walking them through interactive questions about their child and their family. Our team has taken the guesswork out of making sure families have recorded every important detail!

After completing the questionnaire, the Life Plan tool auto-creates a fully designed Life Plan PDF describing all of the important details about the family and child with special needs. This document is downloadable and sharable. It is also stored inside the family’s secure, online planning portal. As life events happen and details about their family situation or child change, families can log back into their planning portal accounts and easily edit and update their Life Plan.

The ENABLE Life Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Step 3. The RESOURCE Plan

  • (1) 60-minute “RESOURCE ASSESSMENT” session with ENABLE team
  • Review of your current resources (individuals, organizations, services, etc.)
  • Resource Plan document detailing results of our team’s assessment, including any gaps in current services or additional resources to connect with
  • Introductions to new resources

HOW DOES THE ENABLE RESOURCE PLAN TOOL WORK?

Creating a Resource Plan with ENABLE requires little work on your part! 

Instead, during this step of your planning journey, our team analyzes the information you provide us with during the Resource Assessment session, conducted in-person at our Indianapolis headquarters or via video conference call. Then we create a document for you providing recommendations about services, organizations, and individuals you should connect with to help your child learn, grow, and excel. If you’re open to introductions, we will also put you in direct contact with an organization(s) in your geographical area who can assist you with securing all of the services we recommend for your child.

The ENABLE Resource Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Step 4. The FINANCIAL Plan

  • Interactive Financial Plan tool
  • Financial preparedness assessment
  • Financial strategy sessions with ENABLE
  • Financial recommendations document
  • Financial strategy implementation

HOW DOES THE ENABLE FINANCIAL PLAN TOOL WORK?

Creating a Financial Plan with ENABLE is a collaborative process! To get started, the ENABLE Financial Plan tool walks you through a series of key questions to evaluate your current level of financial preparedness. You will also need to share various key financial documents and details with the ENABLE team.

After completing the assessment and sharing your records, the ENABLE team analyzes your current financial situation and develops recommendations for how to improve your current situation and plan. You and one of the ENABLE financial advisors will schedule a series of phone and/or video calls to discuss your family’s current financial situation and strategies for improving it and reaching your goals.

Then, after you and your advisor have developed a thorough and effective plan, the ENABLE team will implement the strategies necessary to allow both your family’s financial situation and your loved one with special needs’ financial situation to thrive simultaneously.

After creating your initial financial plan, comprehensive financial planning clients will continue to meet with an ENABLE advisor at least once per year, to review and adjust their plan as life events occur and key details change.

The ENABLE Financial Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Step 5. The LEGAL Plan

  • Legal Plan terminology guide
  • Legal Plan questionnaire
  • Introduction to a Special Needs Planning attorney

HOW DOES THE ENABLE LEGAL PLAN TOOL WORK?

While the ENABLE team does not directly provide legal advice or services, we have a lot of experience helping families understand their legal needs. The ENABLE Legal Plan tool helps make the process of creating a Legal Plan as easy, efficient, and affordable as possible, so that the families feel well-prepared for the futures.

To accomplish this, the ENABLE team provides several valuable resources to help you prepare to engage with an attorney, including a Guide to Legal Planning and a series of Legal Planning Questions that you and your family should discuss before scheduling a meeting with an attorney.

Additionally, if you don’t already have an attorney you’d like to work with, the ENABLE team will personally connect you to a law firm and attorney in your geographical area who we have prescreened and determined to be competent in all components of Special Needs Legal Planning. This individual will assist you in drafting the necessary documents and filing the appropriate paperwork to create your Legal Plan.

Finally, ENABLE team members fully understand the legal planning process and are available to address questions you have as you work with your attorney to create your Legal Plan.

Like Financial Planning, we have found that many families delay creating a Legal Plan—not because they view it as unimportant—but because they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused by the process.

The ENABLE Legal Plan tool is available at the ENABLE website. Learn more here: https://enablesnp.com/purchase-services/

Gain Peace of Mind. Feel Secure.

When all five areas of planning are aligned and working together, you and your family can relax knowing that your future is secure. You’ll also be able to provide every opportunity for your son or daughter with special needs to live a purposeful and impactful life today – and every day in the future.

Learn More about the ENABLE System

Click here to learn more about the ENABLE 5-Step Special Needs Planning System and/or purchase today!

Your Investment

I know what you’re wondering: What does it cost to work with ENABLE to complete your five areas of planning?

To create a comprehensive plan that prepares you and your family in all five of the essential areas of special needs planning, your investment is only $197/month (for the first 12 months), with several renewal options available after the first year.

Click here to learn more about the ENABLE 5-Step Special Needs Planning System and/or purchase today!

Planning Services

To ensure that all families are able to create a plan that fits their needs and budget, ENABLE offers full system planning services, as well as, a la carte options as follows:

Full Planning System

5-Step Planning System $197/month for 12 months OR $1,997/year (eqv. to $166.42/month)

A la carte Planning Services

Vision Plan $97/month, billed annually

Life Plan $297/month, billed annually

Resource Plan $497/year, billed annually

Financial Plan $997/year, billed annually

Legal Plan $397/year, billed annually

Click here to learn more about the ENABLE 5-Step Special Needs Planning System and/or purchase today!

Talk with ENABLE
Now that you understand how our system works, what questions do you have? We’d love to learn more about you and your family and determine whether you’re a good fit for our planning system and services!

You can reach us through the following channels:
Email: info@ENABLEsnp.com
Contact: https://enablesnp.com/contact/
Schedule a call: https://enablesnp.com/schedule-a-call/

special needs planning

DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE GUIDE RIGHT NOW?

Not a problem! Let us send you the e-book version so you can download it and read it at your convenience! 

As a BONUS we’ll also include the Essential Special Needs Planning Checklist to help you make sure you’ve planned for everything!

Just tell us where to send your resources:

A CONCLUDING NOTE FROM THE FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF ENABLE, PHILLIP C. CLARK

We Know You Don’t Want to Plan. Nobody Does.

Now that you’ve read this guide, you should have a better understanding of the five essential areas of special needs. Creating a comprehensive plan that addresses all of these areas will enable you, your family, and your loved one with special needs to live a GREAT life today – and every day in the future!

But just because you now know HOW TO plan, doesn’t mean you necessarily WANT TO dedicate the time and effort it takes to plan well. Am I right?

At ENABLE, we know that nobody wakes up in the morning excited to plan.

Yet, every day, some families do decide to create a plan for their family and their child.

And here’s their secret:

Every family that decides to go through our planning process, has one thing in common. And it’s not that they are excited about the time and effort they know it will take to complete a plan. We have found that when a family decides to plan, it is because of three main intentions they have in their life:

  1. They want to be great providers for their family – for their spouse, children, and loved one with special needs!
  2. They want to be able to give their family every opportunity for success—including their loved one with special needs!
  3. They want to provide experiences, create memories, and pass down values to their family and loved one with special needs!

These are awesome goals and we’re thrilled to help families make progress toward them through their planning journey. At the end of the day, we don’t help families create special needs plans simply for the sake of creating a plan. We help families plan so that they can accomplish their main intentions in life – providing for their families’ needs and giving them every opportunity for success!

What about you? What are your main intentions in life? What do you want to BE for your family?

Achieving this goal(s) is WHY you need to plan.

You Need To Plan NOW

I’m going to be honest with you, I know you’re probably thinking one of the following two things right now:

  1. My child with special needs is very young. I have time to think about this in the future. I’ll plan later.                                                                                                                                                                             OR
  2. I’m so busy fulfilling all of my daily tasks to ensure that my child with special needs and my family can survive. don’t have time to think about this now. I’ll plan later.

The main problem with both of those mindsets, is that, while we all hope we are blessed with a long, healthy life – no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

The thing I hate most about helping families plan is when I meet a family who needs a plan, but it’s too late for them due to various life events that have already occurred (e.g., the parent(s) has already passed away, the parent(s) has a medical condition that prevents them from adequately planning, the parent(s) has lost a job or experienced another negative situation that prevents them from planning as well as they might’ve hoped).

I know when a family approaches me and they’re facing one of those situations. I see it in their eyes immediately. The look of regret. They always confirm my suspicions by stating, “We wish we would’ve started planning sooner. If we had, maybe we wouldn’t be facing such an impossible situation now.”

Don’t get me wrong. Often, our team at ENABLE can still do some things to help these families, regardless of their current situation. But, had they taken the time and put in the effort to create a plan for their child and their family earlier in life, the planning process could’ve been SO MUCH EASIER. And the outcome of their planning could’ve made every member of their family’s life SO MUCH BETTER.

All those years they spent without a plan, they could’ve felt secure – knowing that their life and future WAS secure.

Don’t wait until it’s too late for you and your family to make the decisions you know you need to make to ensure that your entire family – including your loved one with special needs – can live a safe, healthy, happy life today, tomorrow, and every day in the future, regardless of what happens.

Working with ENABLE Makes Planning Easier and Less Time Consuming 

In the last chapter of this guide, we gave you a lot of information and details about the ENABLE 5-Step Planning System and what it would look like to work collaboratively with our team to create a plan for your family and loved one with special needs. Our process allows families to complete all five areas of planning – in 90 days or less.

There are so many resources out there that can help you with your planning. There are many financial, legal, and other advisors you could reach out to for assistance.

What we do differently at ENABLE, is bring all of the pieces of planning together under one roof. We’ve taken the guesswork out of your planning journey by creating a process and system that guides you – step-by-step – through all the essential areas of special needs planning.

You don’t have to waste time Googling a million different details to make sure you’ve adequately planned for your child’s financial future, that you understand and are appropriately utilizing government benefits, that your special needs trust is worded exactly right. You don’t have to worry about whether you have a clear vision for your child’s future and whether your family members understand and are ready to assist you with achieving your vision. You don’t have to wrack your brain trying to record every essential detail about your child the next time a babysitter comes over.

Your planning journey – today and in the future – doesn’t have to be overwhelming, frustrating, or confusing. We created our planning process and system especially for you – to make your life easier and more peaceful.

Let’s Chat

I’d love to hear your family’s story and learn more about your loved one with special needs!

Feel free to reach out to me personally (pclark@ENABLEsnp.com) if you’d like to schedule a time to speak via phone.

Or just click this link to view my calendar and select a convenient time for a call: https://enablesnp.com/schedule-a-call/

Together, we will determine whether your family and ENABLE are a good fit and should begin working together.

Remember, “everyone has the ability to be impactful.” It just takes a little bit of planning to make sure we all reach our full potential.

Respectfully yours,

Phillip C. Clark
Founder & President
ENABLE Special Needs Planning

APPENDIX

APPENDIX A: SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING SELF-ASSESSMENT

Take our Special Needs Planning Self-Assessmenthttps://ENABLEsnp.com/self-assessment

Families who follow the ENABLE Special Needs Planning approach score 5 out of 5 in all five areas of planning, for a total score of 25.

Take our self-assessment to determine how well you’ve planned and whether your family is ready for the future!

APPENDIX B: QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER AS YOU CREATE YOUR SPECIAL NEEDS PLAN

Step 1: Vision Planning Questions to Consider

  • What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s abundant life?
  • What does a GREAT life look like for your child, in terms of their level of independence, social life, spiritual life, education, job or vocation, home environment, etc.?
  • What abilities do you see in him or her that you want to encourage and nurture?
  • What does a great life for your child look like now, in 10-15 years, and in 25+ years?
  • What has been your child’s greatest accomplishment to date?
    • Why do you feel that this is his or her greatest accomplishment?
    • What made it such a great accomplishment?
    • Did your son or daughter see this as a great accomplishment, too?)

Step 2: Life Planning Questions to Consider

  • What does a typical day in the life of your child look like (including times of day and routines/rituals)?
  • Have you recorded names and contact information for all of the important individuals in your child’s life? (e.g., Family members, Friends, Doctors, Therapists, Government Benefit contacts)?
    • Where is this information stored?
  • Have you documented other important information about your child? (e.g., details of your child’s medical health history, details about your child’s daily routines including weekdays and weekends, details about your child’s personality and preferences, details about your child’s dietary needs, medications, and food allergies, details about your child’s religious preferences, recreational activities, and other unique likes/dislikes)

Step 3: Resource Planning Questions to Consider

  • How have traditional and innovative therapies positively impacted your child’s life?
  • What therapies/services have been most beneficial to your child?
  • In what areas of your child’s life have they demonstrated exceptional levels of self-confidence?
  • In what types of situations does your child feel most in his/her element?
  • Right now – what abilities does your child need the most help developing (e.g., speech, motor skills, occupational skills, money skills, job skills/training, interpersonal skills)
  • As your child’s abilities develop and change, what additional services could be beneficial?

Step 4: Financial Planning Questions to Consider

  • How much money will it take, in today’s dollars, to provide your loved one with all of the services, resources, and opportunities to ensure that he or she lives a great life?
  • If you weren’t here to provide for your child, what are some activities and amenities you would want to make sure your child had access to?
  • Does your personal/family financial plan align with your Special Needs financial plan?
  • Is your financial professional aware of your Special Needs Vision, Life, and Resource Plans? Has he/she created your personal/family and Special Needs financial plans to achieve your outlined goals?
  • Have you discussed your Special Needs financial plan with potential future guardians?

Step 5: Legal Planning Questions to Consider

  • What level of monitoring and/or oversight does your child need to make wise decisions?
  • Is your child currently able to make his or her own decisions regarding health care, financial matters, and/or legal matters?
    o Do you see this changing in the future?
  • Have you selected and appointed a future guardian for your child, in the event of your passing or inability to care for him or her?
  • Does your guardian understand the Special Needs Planning you have completed to date? Does he/she align with the goals of your plan and intend to carry out your plan according to your wishes?
  • If you’re working with an attorney, does he/she understand your Vision, Life, Resource, and Financial Plans?
  • Does his or her legal counsel and planning ensure that your goals for your child’s GREAT life will become a reality?

APPENDIX C: SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING CHECKLISTS

Step 1: Vision Planning Checklist
Step 2: Life Planning Checklist
Step 3: Resource Planning Checklist
Step 4: Financial Planning Checklist
Step 5: Legal Planning Checklist

Download this entire guide and the checklists when you signup using the yellow button below.

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