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Resources for special-needs families

The term "special needs" is a broad classification of individuals who may be diagnosed with physical, mental or developmental deficits in various areas. Not at all incapable, special needs children and adults simply may need some modifications, whether in school, at work or at home, to help them be successful through their daily lives.

Millions of people across the globe may have a condition that qualifies them for some assistance. Statistics vary depending on the learning disability or health condition. People dealing with anything from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to autism to hearing impairments to mobility issues should know there are resources available to them.

Families might be overwhelmed when a child is diagnosed with a disability. Changes may need to be implemented over time, or there may be immediate concerns that must be addressed right away. Navigating the waters of assistance can be emotionally and financially taxing, and many parents do not know where to begin.

Information regarding special needs assistance and support is more readily available and accessible than it was in the past thanks to the global climate of online communities. Today, information and connections to others in similar situations is available at a keystroke. There also are many other resources available.

• Speak with your doctor. A diagnosing doctor is a reliable resource for special needs families. He or she can point a family in the right direction and will likely have literature in his or her office. The doctor also can refer families to organizations or groups that specialize in certain conditions or disabilities.

• Learn more at school. Teachers or education specialists are often the first people to recognize signs of a learning disability. Many school districts have plans in place and assessment teams that can work with families to develop individualized education programs (IEPs). An IEP is a written statement of the education program designed to meet a child's individual needs. The school also may be able to refer families to various therapists or additional educational programs that can assist with learning.

• Conduct an online search. Simply searching for a condition or an issue online can bring up a host of available resources and information. In turn, there may be groups that you can contact. Knowing you are not alone can be the extra push you need to wade through the abundant and sometimes confusing literature.

• Investigate financial support. It's not always necessary to pay out of pocket for services or supplies related to special needs. Some resource centers may know of affordable financial professionals who can guide you through setting up budgets and learning about the resources available to you. Families may even qualify for financial aid. Organizations may have grants available, or the government may subsidize certain programs. Speak with a financial consultant to learn more.

Special needs families can get organized and in touch with the right resources to put a plan in place to secure the future of their families.