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From another parent: Housing Solutions are as Unique as the Disability

I found this article written by another parent and thought it had some unique and useful ideas to share when it comes to planning for the future of your adult child with special needs...


My child is high functioning and did not qualify for support so all of my disposable income was spent on therapy, medication and tutors. I don’t regret one penny of it but it sure was hard on the nest egg. She is in college now and has an uncertain future – she has autism and no matter how high function she is, she will always struggle with autism. She may end up one of the 85% of people with autism who never gain meaningful, adequately paid employment. So, what to do? Her future needs are not clear.

I had enough equity after selling my Toronto house to outright purchase a home in a town of 17,000 people, north of Toronto. It’s a familiar place to her, having spent many happy hours nearby at Grandma and Grandpa’s cottage. The town has a hospital, a Community Living and a supportive community. I love it there and will live in the house upon retirement. It’s rented now and nets $1,500 per month, a satisfactory annual ROI of 6%. My adult child is now on ODSP and I use the shelter allowance amount ($479/mo) to cover my cost of life insurance.

I chose this particular house because it offers endless solutions:

  • The house has a high basement that can easily be converted to an apartment if she needs to live with me.

  • A granny flat or mobile home can be added to the property.

  • After I’m gone, she can live there.

  • The house can be rented again as a single unit.

  • It could be split into four separate living areas that share common space in the kitchen, living room and outdoor area then rented to persons who pool their money to pay for shared support, similar to the co-housing model available to seniors through Solterra Co-Housing but with shared rental vs. shared ownership. It could be managed by a professional community provider, with a local lawyer appointed as one of the trustees.

  • It can be converted to three separate apartments.

  • It can be sold and the money put into a Henson trust that will be able to pay rent or purchase a different home.

  • It has lots of space (2,500 sq ft), character and a great, private yard – it’s easy to rent.

Regardless of how things work out for her, she will need monthly support for paying bills, keeping her home under control (it will get piled up with unattended items in no time), medical and health issues such as annual physical, medication review and dental care. Someone needs to keep an eye on her to make sure her emotional health is stable. She will need someone to hear the doctor’s instructions and ensure that she understands and follows them. The house will need to be maintained. I need to replace her parents after we’re gone!

The level of support she will ultimately need will become clear after she transitions from college to employment. In the meantime, I have discussed the options with the people who will be Trustees of the estate after we’re gone, chronicled her needs and filed it together with my will. It has taken three years of hard work to get to this point and it has been well worth it - I do sleep a lot better these days.

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