Families with autistic family members face huge challenges in all spheres: emotionally, socially, developmentally, and financially. April is Autism Acceptance Month, according to the Autism Society. The disorder is “associated with a large reduction of family income — a 27 percent reduction in family income,” according to a report from researcher David Mandell. Autism can push a family to the brink of financial ruin, but bankruptcy is a viable option for relief.
Moms Suffer More
Mothers are much less likely to be employed, Mandell says — and earn less when they do work — than mothers of children without the disorder. While fathers do not feel the same sting, the entire family suffers from the reduced income and weakened financial condition, compared to families without an autistic family member.
Surely Programs Exist?
In a nation and state as blessed as ours, many of us may think programs and support systems exist to help everyone with every issue. That is not the case. Unlike in many similarly developed countries, the United States tends not to spread the costs of individual health burdens equally among us all. We leave families to fend for themselves. It is an enormous but largely hidden financial cost, according to studies, that put one autistic individual's lifetime “social cost” at $3.6 million.
While parents of children with other ailments can tap some charities and a scant few state and federal programs, parents of autistic children generally have very few avenues for financial relief.
Part of the challenge is that autism presents with very few clearly measurable or manageable symptoms. A child with, for example, spina bifida may be eligible for medical devices or short-term therapies fully covered by health insurance. A child with autism may have no similar options because the disorder is pervasive, intractable, and presents with a wide range of symptoms.
Health insurance, Texas's Health & Human Services agency, and a patchwork of charitable programs can be sources of relief and frustration for parents. Treatment through the state's Children's Autism Program, though, is limited to only 180 hours a year (equivalent to 7.5 days) and only 720 hours in the child's lifetime. That is only 30 days of care for a child aged 3 through 15, when state-supported services end.
The care, comfort and treatment of autistic children in Texas is left largely to the parents, who face constant streams of medical bills, invoices for therapy, charges for special camps and services, and other extraordinary costs.
For parents trying hard to care for their autistic child against the enormous obstacles thrown at them from insurers, health care systems, and government, bankruptcy is a viable and legal remedy that can bring blessed relief.
Parents of autistic children quickly learn to zig and zag through life's many speed bumps. When discussing bankruptcy, avoid directly connecting the financial relief bankruptcy can bring to the autistic child. Remember, the Autism Society calls April Autism Acceptance Month, which means all of you need to be comfortable with the situation and your chosen remedy, personal bankruptcy.
The child is not responsible for the disorder or the family's financial distress. Circumstances have been heaped upon you all, so no one person in the family is to “blame” any more than one person is to be credited with getting the protections bankruptcy can bring.
The process for declaring bankruptcy in Texas is not instantaneous, so notify all your child's caregivers and healthcare professionals of your family's need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Often, simply letting these providers know of your wise move may alter the way they handle future requests for payments: they may reduce charges or discharge obligations completely.
No matter how you handle bankruptcy within your family or community, you should always start with a compassionate, caring bankruptcy attorney skilled in bringing help to Texas families. You can do no better than to bring your concerns to The Page Law Firm. Attorney Théda Page has more than 30 years' experience offering practical solutions to families' financial challenges. Contact The Page Law Firm today or by telephone (214) 618-2101 for a complimentary strategy session.