Every new parent has dreams of private college for their new born baby. Many parents will start college funds just after birth and contribute as much as possible to pay tuition, room and board for their child’s four year private education. Parents have 18 years to raise the $45,000 per year that they will need for average cost. After their child graduates from this dream education, the dream job awaits which will pay enough for their dream life. Sounds a little silly – doesn’t it?
But talk to any new parent and you will hear a variation of this dream. I know. My wife and I were new parents in 1998. We started educational IRAs. We started 529 plans. In 2000, Dylan was diagnosed with Autism, but the dream was still alive. We did early intervention, ABA, AIT, gluten free diet, and every other therapy we could find to help Dylan talk and learn. The dream of fully integrating Dylan to his school and continue to college was still alive. Eventually, that dream started to change. We traded the college fund for special needs trust, academics for life skills, and the dream of a high paying job for the hope for enough funding to pay for adult services and a happy, fulfilling life for Dylan.
But how much will the services cost after age 21? The dozens of teachers, therapists and aides who Dylan interacted with on a regular basis in high school were covered by the school district via our tax dollars. Surely the government would take over after the school district is finished at age 21 – right? Well, that is what most parents in our situation hope. But, is that realistic? Most quality adult day programs provide services from 9am till 3:00pm, Monday through Friday at a cost of close to $40,000 per year. Add in transportation to & from the program plus other expenses and the annual cost quickly climbs north of $45,000. Dylan has been on the waiting list for funding through the waiver program since he was 14 and with any luck he will get funding upon exiting the school district in 2 years. But even if we do get funding, will it last for the rest of his life – by the way, Dylan will most likely outlive my wife and myself.
Ok, so now we know that an adult day program costs as much as private college, but without the hope of increased lifetime earning potential. That still does not answer the question - Is realistic that the government will be able to fund the increasing demand for life long services? Well, let’s look at the numbers for 3 of our crafters. Jack aged out of high school in 2016, Dylan will age out in 2019 and Brayden, our youngest crafter, will age out in 2027. During the 11 year span of time in which Jack was diagnosed to when Brayden was diagnosed, the rate of autism increased from 1 in 500 to 1 in 110. Today, the diagnosis rate is 1 in 68 – higher in some areas. When Brayden ages out in 2027, Jack and Dylan will still need services. When the individuals diagnosed today age out in the mid 2030’s, Jack, Dylan and Brayden will still need services. If government funding is already stretched thin today, is it reasonable to expect that funding to increase by more than 7 times in the next 20 years to keep up with demand? Unfortunately, we do not think that is a reasonable expectation. That is why Crafters For Life has taken a somewhat different approach. Instead of spending time and energy fighting for government dollars, we are training our Crafters on the different skills required to make and sell our products. Instead of requiring families to come up with “Private College Tuition” every year for life, we are generating a constructive reason to leave the house and paying jobs. Kind of nice to know that every key chain, coaster or any other product that is sold by Crafters For Life goes directly to benefit adults with special needs and potentially allow families to put the annual “Private College Tuition” to better use.
From Left to right – Kevin, Joanne (created the concept), Nicole, Brayden, Conor, Dylan, Jack & TJ