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The Staggering Costs of a Special Needs Child

The spectrum of special-needs children ranges from mental to physical to psychological and sometimes all three.

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Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

Special-needs children typically wear out their clothing faster, so their parents must update their wardrobes more often than for most children. In addition, some children with special needs continue to wear diapers long past their toddler years. While disposable diapers, even for infants, are not cheap, the ones for older children are not as readily available, and are often much more expensive, with the difference adding up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year.

Sometimes the expenses are intangible. For instance, a family whose eldest child is 15 years old can often rely on the teenager to baby sit the younger siblings at no charge if the parents need to leave the home on short notice. Not only is a special-needs child often incapable of babysitting for his younger siblings, the child often needs extra supervision himself, incurring yet another extra expense.

While the world has become increasingly sensitive to the plight of special-needs children, offering services that allow these children to live their lives to the fullest and realize their potential, the cost of raising them can be astronomical. While we may not be in a position to help such a family financially, our awareness of these extra costs will help to sensitize us to the full scope of the challenge they face.

Barry Katz is a college administrator and adjunct professor who lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and three children.

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The spectrum of special-needs children ranges from mental to physical to psychological and sometimes all three. A 2008 study by the United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 14 percent of children in this country fit into this category, and about 20 percent of families have at least one special-needs child. The definition of a special-needs child can range from one who is diagnosed with a mild learning disability to one who has a life-threatening condition, such as cystic fibrosis. This article will focus on the more severe categories.

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