Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Money Matters

This article by Richard J. Dalton, Jr. in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes a major difficulty parents of children with ASDs face as their children reach maturity: how to keep them from making bad financial decisions and/or prevent them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous salespeople.
Consider these numbers:
"An estimated 85 percent of the autistic population is younger than 18, and those diagnosed in the beginning of the wave of autism during the 1990s are reaching adulthood. The number of cases of autistic children and students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act nearly doubled from 42,417 in 1997 to 79,586 in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Education. "
The article explains:
"If autistic adults don't understand the nature of commerce, their parents face the prospect of seeking legal guardianship, taking away the very independence they've dreamed of for their son or daughter.
A guardian may have the legal right to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the person under his care. Just as a minor cannot sign a contract, neither can a person, even an adult, whose financial affairs are handled by a guardian.
"A lot of times, that can be a really difficult decision for parents," said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, in Nixa, Mo. "
Here's an illuminating tale from the article:
"Linda Fulton, founder and president of the Fulton Foundation for Autism, said her 23-year-old son Dunlap, or D.J., has a tremendous ability to memorize numbers, including, she discovered, her credit card's.
Five years ago, said Fulton, of Huntington Bay, her son called a Chicago car dealer to buy a Lamborghini. The salesperson told him he needed a transport company. So he found one online, giving his mother's credit card number for the $25,000 fee. Fulton received a phone call to confirm the transaction and canceled the order.
A few years ago, her son ordered $10,000 worth of model planes, which were delivered to the house. She returned them but had to pay delivery and return shipping.
Lately, her son has been pushing to buy the Quiet Supersonic Transport airplane, the $80-million replacement for the Concorde that's to be launched in the next decade. He's told his mother he'd settle for a ride.
"He said, 'It's only $225,000 to be on the first flight,'" Fulton said. "I don't have to worry about that until 2014."

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