Three Financial "Do's" After An Autism Diagnosis: Part One

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Our son was diagnosed with Autism two weeks before his third birthday in August, 2014.  I feel fortunate that we were able to get the official diagnosis early, because it set off a chain of events which allowed for him to be enrolled in the disabled preschool program in our suburban New Jersey district.

We are both teachers, and have had many students with disabilities in our classes over the years.  I am a special education teacher, and so I've had years of experience working with children on the spectrum.

Statistically it would seem improbable that we would have a child on the spectrum, but the rates of autism diagnosis in New Jersey are growing.

We started seeing signs - the loss of the few words he did have.  Lack of eye contact.  Decreasing interest in others.  Independent and isolated play.

We walked out of the child development clinic at the hospital, and while I cannot say that I was not slightly upset and disheartened, I remember the strongest feeling and thought that I had was one of preparation: We can do this.  It will be different, but we're good.

What was important to me as a father two and a half years ago has becoming increasingly more important as time has gone on: Divide and conquer the tremendous amount of work at home.  Be involved with and supportive of our family to the greatest extent possible.  Create opportunities for career and salary advancement.  Put money away for the future.

The creation of this small blog is an extension of those thoughts.  There is a clear need for a community of people who are caring for a child or other family member living with a disability who want to share ideas the day to day finances and long term investing strategies that can help to alleviate many of the substantial medical, therapeutical, and educational costs that come with that care.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to begin.  That is why I would suggest a few simple things to begin to save money and otherwise provide for a family member with a disability.

Step One: Create an Automatic Savings Plan

While I began this small blog once I had reached the $10,000 mark to "begin" this fund, the truth is that the fund started with the very first dollar that I saved.  Back in 2012 I was only able to save $100 per month.  I was a new teacher, without a lot of disposable income.  Like most people, I had - and still have - the usual bills.

But I made it a priority to begin saving what I could, because I just didn't know what the future would hold for us.  So, to make it a forced habit, I set up an automatic savings plan.  On the first of the month, every month, that $100 was sent from my bank account to a mutual fund account.  I didn't have to think about saving, remembering to make a transfer, or come up with an excuse as to why I needed the money for something else.  It just happened, and I learned to live without it in my bank account, even though things were tight.

This year I am able to do a little more each month, but I have chosen to set it up to go each Monday, rather than once per month in a lump sum.  It helps me to live within a budget and not have to worry about whether a larger sum is available on one given day.  To each his own.

But the point remains the same - automatic transfers enable you to have a disciplined savings strategy, in whatever way works for you.

$10 a week, $100 a month, $1000 or more a month: the dollar amount is not particularly important. No two people have the same financial circumstances.  But what we all have in common is the means to set up an automatic transfer and see it through.  This way, no matter the initial amount, it is bound to grow and grow.

Personally, my investment strategy is to build a dividend growth stock portfolio.  This means that I will, by and large, invest in companies that have proven to increase their stock dividend year after year.  For you, it may be a mutual fund, as I used to do, a mix of investments, or a savings account at your bank.  The point is to take the first step and to begin saving - immediately.

Good luck, and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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