“I never knew having a kid with a learning disability would be so expensive!”
Sooner or later, every parent at least thinks this. While many schools offer services to students with a learning disability (LD), most kids need outside help at some point in their lives — be it assessment, tutoring, schooling, coaching or therapy. Most services for kids with LD aren’t covered by traditional health insurance, and there’s little financial aid available for education before college.
There are some programs available to make a small dent in expenses, if you’re willing to take the time to plan and follow through with the paperwork. Consider the following options:
Health insurance coverage
Many health insurance policies do cover assessment and psychological assessment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and treatment. Each insurer is different, and coverage can vary even among policy types. To be certain, call your insurance carrier to clarify.
If your child isn’t insured, check out Insure Kids Now, which is subsidized by the federal and state governments. Eligibility, coverage and details are listed by state.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a government program that pays benefits to disabled children who come from low-income families. SSI eligibility is determined by your local Social Security Office and a state Disability Determination Service.
Social security disability standards are very strict; the law says that in order to qualify for benefits, your child must have a mental or physical condition that results in “marked and severe functional limitations” for at least a year. Kids who qualify are not only entitled to money but also to government-funded health care. However, kids with LD alone generally are not found eligible.
For more information on eligibility for SSI, check these resources:
- Social Security Administration’s “Benefits for Children With Disabilities“
- National Center on Secondary Education and Transition:
Supplemental Security Income (Part 1 of 3): A Bridge to Work
Supplemental Security Income (Part 2 of 3): So You Have Decided to Apply
Supplemental Security Income (Part 3 of 3): Your Right to Appeal
Flexible spending plan (FSP) benefits
Diagnostic or treatment services may be paid for using what’s called a medical flexible spending plan. These benefits, offered by a majority of U.S. workplaces, allow workers to set aside earnings for family medical and psychological services, and even schooling and tutoring, if they’re recommended by a doctor. Check the alphabetized list of eligible expenses allowed by IRS.
A second type of benefit is a flexible spending plan for dependent care. Many after-school academic or activity programs may designate a portion of their fees as child care. These costs, as well as traditional child care expenses, can be paid for using a dependent care FSP — up to $5,000 a year per family.
Money contributed to an FSP isn’t taxed. Therefore, participants not only get more from the money they set aside, they also lower their taxable earnings, which could put them in a lower tax bracket and reduce their overall tax bill. For instance, a family earning $40,000 could put aside $5,000 for child care and $1,000 for prescribed services and lower their taxable income to $33,000. Every dollar put aside would be worth about 30 cents more than the taxed dollars. Over a year the savings can add up.
The only downside to a flexible spending account is its “use it or lose it” provision — that is, all money set aside must be spent within the calendar year of the plan. It’s best to have a good idea of what your potential expenses might be before making a large commitment.
How to pay for your child’s services
It’s easy to get into debt paying for your child’s needs. Professionals and schools take credit cards. There are nonprofit credit counseling services that specialize in determining budgets and payment plans. Help locating national and local services is available online.
Before you invest
Are these options worth your time and money? Be willing to be skeptical and take your time researching and considering services and providers.