Special needs families in Ontario struggle. If you are a special needs parent in Ontario, regardless of the diagnosis, you are struggling in some way. The emotional and physical burdens of parenting a child or youth with special needs, are draining. FULL STOP. Now add financial stress to that. Extra programs, time off work, specialty therapies – all of these cost a lot of money. Sometimes that is literally your grocery money. Other times it is your retirement plan. Financial costs are a huge strain to Ontario special needs families. There are some programs that help. Not everyone knows about them, but you need to know how to access these programs now.
Don’t waste another minute. Get started applying. There are waitlists for one or two of these programs. There is time and energy involved and I know you are already exhausted. BUT your family needs this now.
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Special Needs Families NEED TO Know About These Programs NOW:
FACTS: ACSD is income Tested. If your family income is over a certain level you might not qualify. BUT, you need to check anyways. When my daughter was small and we were struggling to get her a diagnosis we were a one income family. That was a hardship. We needed this support in order for me to be able to get her what she needed in the community. The ACSD program will also give your child some health and dental benefits. Check if you qualify for ACSD at your regional office. Your child must be living at home and under 18. This is intended for families that are low to moderate income. See link above. Amounts vary depending on your family income and severity of disability but can be $25 to $470 a month.
Although this one has been challenging historically because of waitlists and inadequate support personnel. (we waited 4-5 years for my daughter to get off the waitlist) That’s actually more reason to get on the waitlist now. If you have a child with special needs of any sort in Ontario you know all about waiting. GET on the list for Special Services at Home now. NOTE: The Ministry web site indicates that you can do both of these forms above on your own. However, I found that was not the case for many families. I used to help adoptive families fill them out. When I filled ours out years ago the VON locally called us to redo chunks of it, so maybe start there. Call your area VON office for help and guidance on this one.
This Special Services at Home (or SSAH) program changes often. We had a support person for Ainsley for a couple of years but then she moved. She has not been replaced yet. I know many families with amazing support workers who are paired with their children and take them out weekly for soccer or swimming, just to give everyone a break. However, because we have no actual worker anymore, we are able to access this fund to help pay for Ainsley’s Therapy riding lessons and camp too. INVALUABLE.
Here is the SSAH application form. You can use this for a respite or support worker. Currently you can wait for the VON to match you with that worker, or try to hunt one down yourself.
Disability Tax Credit
This is a Canadian tax credit program as taxes are federal government domain. You will need a doctor, or nurse practitioner, to sign off on whether your child has a recognized disability or not. You must fill out a Form T-2201. See below for the link. The good news is this is retroactive. So if your child was diagnosed with autism or FASD in 2009, but didn’t get this form signed by a doctor until 2014 they will retroactively apply the credit so that you might receive a refund payment lump sum. First find a good doctor or nurse practitioner. Some refuse certain disabilities. Be clear on how the disability presents and how it impacts daily life and what you need. Then submit the form.
If you are like me at all then you might need to find someone with tax law knowledge for guidance on this. Certainly at tax time be sure your tax person, or accountant has experience with disability tax credits. That is vital. Ask upfront.
RDSP – Registered Disability Savings Plan (think RESP for children with special needs)
If your child has a disability and receives the Ontario Disability Tax Credit then you might want to set up an RDSP for them (Registered Disability Savings Plan) – You can have an RESP and RDSP at the same time for the same child. Check with someone reputable about how to invest in an RDSP. There are significant incentives from the government here. So for instance we started one for one daughter a few years ago at the suggestion of my financial advisor. This is a matching grant – so if you add money yearly, then the government adds to that.
To open an RDSP here’s what you need to know. Click on the government link to RDSP forms here. This is a fund to help support your child when they are over 18.
This is About Your Special Needs Child:
Over the years I have heard many special needs families say I don’t want a handout. Or it feels like a cash grab. GET OVER IT! You pay taxes. Any conversations related to your child with special needs are about getting what your child needs now. This is not about you. It is about your child with special needs.
My child needs therapy riding. My child needs an RDSP for the future. The future for children with special needs can be very worrisome. While I am at it on the topic, please be sure you have a will and have given longterm future for your child serious thought.