All parents worry about their children’s future, but for the nineteen percent of individuals with a disability, that parental concern is even greater, especially when it comes to financial planning and the transition to adulthood. This was very apparent on Saturday as more than 300 people traveled from five different states to attend the first Special Needs Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland
The morning was dedicated to special needs financial planning and was funded through a partnership with the SunTrust Foundation
as part of a regional series of workshops dedicated to “Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being” through education and resources. Before breaking out into sessions providing information on four key areas of special needs financial planning, attendees heard from Reilly Morrison, Trust Advisor with SunTrust Bank. Following his introduction and overview, attendees received information from experts in small breakout sessions - a panel comprised of Stuart Spielman (Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Autism Speaks), Mary G Morris (Chief Executive Officer of Virginia 529
), and Anne Blackfield (Director of Interagency Affairs at the Maryland Department of Disabilities
) who led the discussion on the recently passed Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) legislation, its history and the state implications. Don Ryan, Vice President of National Care Advisors
, educated families on what funding streams may be available to them and how to access those oftentimes much needed funds. The session explaining the different types of guardianship options available to parents of children with special needs was led by attorney Matt Bogin (Matt Bogin Law
) and the father of a young man with autism, Mark Friese
. Lastly, the time dedicated to providing education about Special Needs Trusts was led by SunTrust’s Reilly Morrison.
Following the morning session, attendees visited over 20 resource fair providers during the lunch break and stayed for the four afternoon workshop sessions funded by a generous grant from the Isadore and Bertha Gudelsky Family Foundation. This event marked the fourth of a six part series of transition town halls with adult services workshops thanks to the family foundation’s commitment to the organization and cause. Gregory Koch, an adult with autism who serves as a Risk Analytics Associate for Freddie Mac, kicked off the opening session by talking about his experience in transitioning into the real world; highlighting the challenges he has faced and overcome. He also shared with the audience that he was celebrating his one year anniversary at Freddie Mac after successfully completing the company’s internship program designed for adults on the spectrum, which led to the job he has today. Afterwards the attendees visited workshops based on their areas of interest, including post-secondary education led by Dr. Aaron Rakow, President of College Steps
; housing led by Angela Lello, Director For Housing, Community Living for Autism Speaks; transition led by Tia Marsili, Director of Trust for The ARC of Northern Virginia
; and employment led by David Kearon, Director of Adult Services for Autism Speaks.