Financial justice for all disabled Canadians

“Do you know there’s financial help for your child?” I recently asked a friend.

Like many new parents he and his wife had expected a healthy child. But the fickle finger of fate had ordained otherwise.

Now, several years later, they were struggling with the medical, financial and emotional burdens of caring for a child with cerebral palsy, a lifetime disability. Unfortunately, many families are unaware of the new government project providing financial security for all disabled Canadians

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. In Canada and the U.S. there are over 500,000 children and adults who suffer from this tragic problem.

The way cerebral palsy affects children varies. Some children suffer involuntary and uncontrolled movements or a loss of balance and depth perception. This makes simple tasks such as standing still difficult.

Others have learning problems and difficulty controlling bladder and bowel functions.

To know what causes most cases of cerebral palsy you would need the Wisdom of Solomon.

But it’s believed that some cases are the result of trauma to the brain during labour and delivery.

Or that infection, uterine maternal problems or other unknown factors interfere with normal brain development.

Fortunately cerebral palsy does not get worse over time.

Premature babies, those who weigh 3.3 lbs (1,520 grams), other low weight babies such as twins and triplets are more prone to cerebral palsy than babies carried to full term.

But brain damage can also occur in early infancy.

For instance, the shaken-baby syndrome, bacterial meningitis, malnutrition or a car accident without proper seatbelt security can result in cerebral palsy.

Obvious symptoms of cerebral palsy are easy to diagnose.

But in some cases diagnosis is incomplete until doctors see a delay in normal developmental guidelines, such as reaching for toys at four months or sitting up by eight months.

You also need Solomon’s judgment when trying to prevent cerebral palsy. There are too many unknown factors associated with this disability.

But practicing preventive medicine can help to lower the risk. As soon as women become pregnant they should make sure that they maintain a healthy diet, and unless absolutely necessary avoid prescription medication.

The type of care cerebral palsy children require is dependent on the extent of the disability.

Some may need help for visual impairment or blindness, hearing loss, speech therapy and sleep disorders. Others may require surgery for dislocated hips or scoliosis, a curvature of the spine commonly associated with this disease.

But I’m sure only the parents, facing the daily task of caring for any disabled child, know the full extent of the problem.

Their untold hours of labour take a physical and emotional toll not only on the parents but on the whole family.

Don Cherry, love him or hate him, established the Rose Cherry Home for Kids several years ago to help relieve the burden of parents.

Known now as the Darling Home for Kids it now cares for cerebral palsy and other disabled children.

Like many, I hate to see my taxes wasted. But I’ll gladly pay for the new legislation that is helping children and adults with disability. But Canadians may not receive the benefit unless my friend and other parents become aware of what’s called The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

If you are a Canadian resident under age 60 and eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, you qualify for the RDSP. Parents and guardians simply open an RDSP account for their disabled family member.

The lifetime limit of the contribution to the plan is $200,000 that will grow tax-deferred. The government will fund the account up to $70,000. Since July 2011, proceeds from a deceased parent or grandparent’s RRSP, RRIF and Registered Pension Plan may be rolled over into a RDSP.

You don’t need the Wisdom of Solomon to know this is a good deal for not only cerebral palsy children, but for all disabled Canadians and their families. My friend is looking into this RDSP and so should others. Not often is the government 100% right. But in this case it is!

For more details, or call 416-917-4396.