Special Needs: Are Your Employees Struggling?

Special Needs Support for Working Parents

Roughly 10% of the workforce currently supports a child with special needs. As part of Autism Awareness Month, we're featuring weekly stories throughout April about what this means for employees and how employers can help. The following comes from Adam R. Goldberg, M.Ed, Founder & CEO of myEdGPS. Joe and Meg are the parents of Kevin Walsh, a 6th Grader with Autism. And they have a clear and pressing need to consume costly services through employer-funded healthcare. Here's what's happening behind the scenes for Joe and Meg, and what leads to additional hidden costs for Joe's employer. To set the stage, prior to Kevin's birth Joe had been the ideal employee ; a successful sales professional who consistently exceeded his quota. He had universally earned the respect and trust of his coworkers, upper management, and clients. Joe was a rising star. That's the Joe they thought they knew.

Special Needs: A Second Job for Working Parents

In the years following Kevin's diagnosis, life changed for Joe and, unfortunately, for his employer. Take a look at Kevin's typical docket of supports during the workweek, a veritable second full-time job for Joe and Meg:

Mon: ABA 3 PM; OT 5 PM; Independent evaluation report review with Meg 8 PM


Tue:
ABA 3 PM; Speech 5 PM; insurance claims paperwork 7 PM

Wed: IEP team meeting 10 AM; ABA 3 PM, OT 5 PM; Sped PAC meeting 7 PM

Thu: Call from Principal 11 AM; Early pick-up 12 PM; ABA 3 PM; Speech 5 PM

Fri: Meeting with Advocate 9 AM; ABA 3 PM, OT 5 PM; Review of IEP with Meg 7 PM

(ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis; OT: Occupational Therapy; Speech: Speech/Language Therapy; IEP: Individualized Education Program; Sped PAC: Special Education Parent Advisory Council)

It is important to note that Meg also works full time and has unpredictable hours. So, Joe and Meg have to get very creative and "tag team" to make it all work.

The Bad News for Joe and Meg?

Joe and Meg are completely exhausted at the end of each day, challenged to give equitable attention to their other two children, let alone to find any quality time for themselves or each other. Marriages like Joe and Meg's are almost 10% more likely to end in divorce.1 It should, therefore, come as no surprise that parents like Joe lose at least 5 hours of work each week2, or more than 250 hours per year. The lost productivity cost to his employer, at his $90,000 base salary, exceeds $10,000! If you then add the opportunity cost of lost sales, it paints a picture of an ill-fated, costly, and heartbreaking conundrum for all.

The Bad News for Joe's Employer?

Joe is not alone. Statistically another 1,800 working parents in his company of 18,000 employees3 struggle with similar challenges. For an organization of this size, that means a hidden cost of over $7MM/year4!

The Good News for All!

There are solutions. BUT, employer beware! A traditional "hotline" approach only scratches the surface, often leading to frustrated employees and wasted money for you, their employer. As we suggested in our initial story about Kevin, it's time for a different type of intervention, one that goes deeper in supporting hardworking parents like Joe and Meg while still protecting your bottom line.
1Hartley et al (J Fam Psychol. 2010 Aug; 24(4):449-57) 2,4 Powers ET. Children's health & maternal work activity: estimates under alternative disability definitions. J Hum Resour.; 38(3):522-556, 2004 3CDC, 2013, Labor Project for Working Families, 2000

Written by: Patrick Donovan

About the Author

Patrick Donovan Bright Horizons

A member of Bright Horizons’ Executive Team, Patrick has overall responsibility for EdAssist and College Coach. Patrick and his teams are dedicated to enabling superior performance for clients and their employees through better education while also reducing stress through better financial wellness. Patrick believes that our job is to unlock human potential and is passionate about how we positively change lives here at Bright Horizons.