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Layoffs Force Special Needs Families To Cut Back

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Job losses are leaving many middle class parents unable to help their adult children as they would have years ago. But when those adults have disabilities, it’s not so easy to scale back.

Across the board, parents who once paid for their kids’ college tuition or offered a helping hand to young adults looking for their first job or seeking to buy their first home are cutting back, as job losses are leaving six-figure earners with a fraction of their former incomes. Parent of adults with disabilities have little choice, however.

Just a few years ago, Diane Hayes bought a 3,600 square foot home in Orlando, Fla. for her family — which includes two teenager daughters with autism and one with Down syndrome. She selected the home because it would one day be able to accommodate five adults and because it had a backyard pool for therapy. But when Hayes was laid off from her job as a bank recruiter, she was forced to sell the home at a significant loss.

Now, the family is renting a 1,200-square-foot house where the three teenagers share a bedroom. Special summer programs that the girls typically attend will be scaled back this year. And Hayes says the family is dipping into savings designed to support the girls as adults just to meet their expenses.

“With kids with disabilities, there’s no cheap way out,” Hayes told the Wall Street Journal. “Other people can send their kids to community college, have them get part-time jobs, and think ‘maybe our son or daughter will support us’…We can’t do that.”

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