Samantha Fox never imagined that she’d be entering her fourth year of educating children with autism at Loretto Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida. Though she knew teaching was her calling, according to Fox, she didn’t think she was patient or smart enough to work with kids who had special needs. It didn’t take long for her to realize that none of that mattered.
“If you get right down to it, no matter what the child’s disability, underneath it all they are just a kid like all the rest. They just want to be supported, loved, included and not looked at like they are any different than everyone else,” Fox shared.
This is the chorus Fox and others sing when it comes to addressing the special needs of those with disabilities. When asked whether the general public is well equipped to understand this message, she said “not yet, but we are headed in the right direction.” Fox referenced how technology, the internet and our ability to connect provide the opportunity for people to learn about disabilities. The more knowledge and understanding that exists, the easier it will be for everyone to have a seat at the table.
For Fox, it’s all about normalizing inclusion. We’re lucky to be living in a generation that now includes a character with autism on Sesame Street and movies starring actors with Down syndrome. It’s our duty to continue to raise children who are inclusive and this is the best way to start. Another perhaps less obvious way to look at special education is how we can integrate those lessons into every curriculum. With anxiety disorder rates soaring among younger and younger children, we should consider including social and emotional health lessons in every classroom.
“It boils down to making adjustments in what we consider the norm, in order to make it so that all kids and adults are able to access what you and I can, like going to college or getting job training, eating at a restaurant, or buying groceries. We need to continue learning about inclusion in everyday life and what that can look like,” said Fox.
When ABLE United decided to feature a special needs teacher, we couldn’t have imagined just how powerful her testimony would be, or how it would align with our own goal—of making it possible for those with disabilities to thrive in every aspect of their lives. By taking time to understand and be inclusive of those with disabilities and by making sure resources are available to them, we can help to create a bright future in which everyone has a safe place.
If you have any questions about the only savings account created especially for persons with disabilities, you can call us directly at 1-888-524-2253. To find out if you or someone you know is eligible for an ABLE United savings account, try our eligibility wizard.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in today’s culture. We’re glad that more people are making autism a part of everyday conversation, and ABLE United is dedicated to bringing awareness to the daily experiences and struggles of those with ASD.
We’ve found that there are a number of ideas out there about what it’s like to live with autism that just aren’t true and we’d like to dispel them. Here’s an exercise of True or False to test your knowledge of autism, assistance offered and the human experience of those diagnosed with the disorder.
1. True or False? People with autism are unable to feel emotion.
False. Very false, in fact. Happiness, sadness, frustration, joy and anger are felt as vividly by those with autism as they are by someone who is not on the spectrum. Sometimes those with autism will have different ways of expressing emotion, but the feelings are certainly there.
2. True or False? Insurance covers all the therapies required for those with ASD.
False. Unfortunately, yearly expenses can range from $17,000 to $21,000, and most insurance companies do not cover everything.1 ABLE United savings accounts are specifically designed to allow people with disabilities to save up to $15,000, tax-free, per year and can be used for a variety of expenses, including therapies.
3. True or False? Autism can be connected with physical ailments, as well as mental faculties.
True. Though largely neurological, there are other illnesses and disorders to which those with autism are more prone. Children with autism are eight times more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders. And epilepsy impacts more than 30% of those with autism, while only around 2% of the rest of the population experiences it.
4. True or False? Those with autism should not drive a car.
False. Driving obviously requires a complex set of skills and can take time to master for those with autism, but the disorder alone does not preclude anyone from pursuing their goal of obtaining a driver’s license. The Interactive Autism Network published a helpful article with guidelines for those with ASD navigating the road.
5. True or False? ASD is caused by a complex combination of multiple factors.
True. Researchers have identified a wide range of genetic factors that can increase a child’s susceptibility to ASD. Unfortunately, since they have not isolated a single cause, it can make diagnosis and treatment a complicated effort of trial and error.
6. True or False? More and more people are being diagnosed with autism each year.
True. Improved diagnostic capabilities and increased attention can certainly account for the uptick in ASD cases throughout America, but the numbers do seem to be increasing exponentially. According to the CDC, 1 in 59 children are somewhere on the spectrum. When considering treatment from such an early age, it’s helpful to also consider an ABLE United savings account. Whether therapies and medication or educational activities, we want to ensure that those with ASD are armed to live their most fulfilling life.
7. True or False? People with ASD are less intelligent than those without.
False. Those with ASD are definitely not predisposed to have below-average IQs. In fact, many people with autism have high IQs and excel in things like math, engineering or music.
Sadly, many of these myths and misconceptions are still prevalent in our society today. It’s our hope that increasing awareness and fostering conversation is one step in the right direction for a better understanding of what it’s like to live with ASD.
ABLE United is committed to helping those with ASD prepare financially for their future, to learn more about the only savings account created specifically for those with disabilities browse this website or call 1-888-524-2253. Use our eligibility tool to see if you, or someone you know, qualifies for a savings account that won’t make you sacrifice your eligibility for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.
Question: What should every individual with a disability have?
Answer: If they qualify, an ABLE United account.
ABLE United accounts offer the ability to save while maintaining SSI and Medicaid. Family and friends can contribute to the account as well, and earnings are tax-free when used for qualified expenses. Now, to help you get started, we are kicking off the summer season with a special offer for new account holders.
If you open a new account anytime between May 1 – July 31, 2019, ABLE United will contribute $50 into your account to help you get a head start on saving!*
Did you know that we recently introduced new account features to ensure that individuals with a disability can save for a better life experience in the way that best fits their needs and goals?
New features include:
- FDIC-insured savings option for peace of mind
- Ability to choose how you withdraw funds to allow you to use your account your way
- Enhanced gifting page to allow others to support you in reaching your savings goals
- Live chat with Customer Service to answer all your questions
Opening an account is quick, easy and free – below is the information you will need to get started:
- Personal identifying information of the account owner and if necessary the person opening the account on their behalf
- Banking information
- Selection of savings or investment options
- A contribution as little as $25 to get started.
There’s never been a better time to start saving than now. Open your account today
Enroll in a new ABLE United account between May 1, 2019 and July 31, 2019 on ableunited.com, and you will receive a $50 contribution into your new ABLE United account. This offer only applies to new accounts opened between May 1, 2019 and July 31, 2019. Funds earned will be deposited directly into your ABLE United account by October 31, 2019. ABLE United is a savings and investment plan that may be used to set aside funds for qualified disability expenses. Funds may be used tax-free to pay for any qualified disability expense. This promotion is limited to the first 5,000 accounts. ABLE United reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be in violation of the guidelines or any laws, or to be attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the promotion by cheating, hacking, deception, or any other unfair practices. Please review the Program Description and Participation Agreement before opening an account.
At ABLE United, we offer account holders professionally managed savings and investment options. These options include predesigned portfolios and individual funds from which customers can build a custom portfolio.
With the recent transition of our Customer Service and Records Management to Sumday Administration, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon, we are excited to introduce an FDIC Savings Fund to the investment and savings options available to our customers.
The FDIC Savings Fund is an FDIC-insured savings account option with funds placed in a demand deposit account established by the Trust at the Bank of New York Mellon (Bank). FDIC insurance generally protects up to $250,000 of your deposits at the same bank in the same ownership right and capacity. The funds in your ABLE account invested in the FDIC Savings Fund, along with other deposits you hold at the Bank, will be insured up to $250,000.
This transition also provides more flexibility for customers by allowing the account holder to select which fund(s) to withdraw money from – an easy way to manage your investments separate from your savings.
It’s important to know that any new contributions can be directed toward any of the available savings and investment options, and all current investments can be transferred between savings and investment options up to two times per year. To make changes to your current investments, simply sign in to your account, click on the Investments tab, and look for the Change Strategy link under the Total Balance section.
We provide performance summaries for each of the eight savings and investment options on a monthly basis, which consists of the investment returns for each option net of the Investment Administration Fee (note: there is no Investment Administration Fee for the FDIC Savings Fund).
Have questions? Contact Customer Service through live chat or by calling toll free at:
1-888-524-ABLE (2253) (Monday – Friday, 9am – 6 pm ET)
1-844-888-2253 TTY (Monday – Friday, 9 am – 8 pm ET)
With the recent transition of our Customer Service and Records Management to Sumday Administration, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon, we are excited to share the account enhancements now available to our customers.
• FDIC-insured savings option to give you peace of mind
• Live chat with customer service
• New gifting page to allow others to support you in reaching your savings goals
Manage Your Money Your Way
The FDIC Savings Fund is an FDIC-insured savings account option. The funds in your ABLE account invested in the FDIC Savings Fund, along with other deposits you hold at the Bank, will be insured up to $250,000. This option allows you to earn interest generally comparable with a traditional bank savings account.
Customers now have greater flexibility to manage their money their way – by allowing the account holder to select which fund(s) to withdraw money from – making it easy to manage your investments separate from your savings.
Connect with Us
We want to hear from you! You can now reach our customer service team via online chat, as well as by telephone.
More Ways to Save
Anyone may contribute to an account on behalf of the individual with a disability, including family and friends and other community support organizations, like a church or civic group.
Now it is easier than ever to contribute to an individual’s ABLE United account with the enhanced ABLE United gifting page. The unique gifting page allows the individual to show a savings goal if desired, and provides for easy sharing through social media and email.
We encourage account holders to take advantage of the new, enhanced gifting page to continue to build their savings for a better life experience.
This spring, the ABLE United team is hitting the road and will be at a number of events across the state to answer your questions. Stop by our booth at any of the events below to speak to one of our team members and learn why an ABLE account is right for you or your loved one – there’s never been a better time to start saving.
Treasure Coast Down Syndrome Awareness Buddy Walk
March 23, 2019
Indian Riverside Park
Jensen Beach, Florida
Best Buddies Friendship Walk – Gainesville
March 24, 2019
University of Florida’s Flavet Field
Seminole County Public Schools – Transition Fair
March 30, 2019
Winter Springs High School Cafeteria
130 Tuskawilla Rd.
Winter Springs, FL 32708
FGCU CARD Center: Annual Conference on Best Practices in Autism Spectrum Disorder
April 6, 2019
Florida Gulf Coast University Cohen Center
Fort Myers, FL
Best Buddies Friendship Walk – Tallahassee
April 13, 2019
April 12, 2019
Tallahassee Community College Lifetime Sports Complex
Autism Notebook Connections Conference & Expo
April 13, 2019
1230 South Pine Island Road, Plantation, FL 33324
Autism Society of Greater Orlando 2019 Autism Walk & Family Fun Day
April 20, 2019
Orange County Convention Center
Best Buddies Friendship Walk – Central Florida
May 4, 2019
Lake Eola Park
Best Buddies Friendship Walk – Jacksonville
May 4, 2019
Jacksonville Beach, FL
Best Buddies Friendship Walk – Tampa Bay
May 4, 2019
Raymond James Stadium
Nathaniel’s Hope Make ‘Em Smile
June 1, 2019
Lake Eola Park
June 7 – 9, 2019
Hyatt Regency Orlando
At ABLE United, we take pride in working with organizations, like Best Buddies Florida, that support our mission of helping individuals with disabilities Achieve a Better Life Experience. Represented in over 200 elementary, middle, high schools and college campuses across the state, Best Buddies programs enrich the lives of youth and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Since 2009, more than 150,000 participants in 60 cities have walked to raise awareness for friendship, inclusion, and integrated job opportunities for those with IDD. Every dollar raised supports local Best Buddies programs, bringing the world one step closer to inclusion and acceptance.
The month of March officially kicks off the walks in Florida, and we’re excited to share that ABLE United brand ambassadors will be present at nearly every walk to answer questions and share why an ABLE account is right for you. Come visit us at one of our booths:
Friendship Walk – South Florida
March 16, 2019
Maurice A. Ferré Park
1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132
Check-in: 8:00 a.m.
Walk: 9:15 a.m.
Celebrate Until: 1:00 p.m.
Friendship Walk – Gainesville
March 24, 2019
University of Florida’s Flavet Field
Woodlawn Drive between Stadium and Museum Road
Check-in: 9:00 A.M.
Walk: 10:00 A.M.
Celebrate Until: 1:00 P.M.
Friendship Walk – Tallahassee
April 6, 2019
North Monroe Street & Lake Ella Drive
Check-in: 2:00 P.M.
Opening Ceremonies: 2:30 P.M.
Celebrate Until: 4:30 P.M.
Friendship Walk – Orlando
Saturday, May 4, 2019
Lake Eola Park
512 E. Washington St., Orlando, FL
Check-in: 8:00 A.M.
Walk: 9:00 A.M.
Celebrate Until: 12:00 P.M.
Friendship Walk – Jacksonville
May 4, 2019
1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach, FL
Check-in: 8:00 A.M.
Walk: 9:00 A.M.
Celebrate: Until 12:00 P.M.
Friendship Walk – Tampa
Saturday, May 4, 2019
Raymond James Stadium
4201 N Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33607
Check-in: 8:00 AM
Walk: 9:30 AM
Celebrate: Until 12:00 PM
An ABLE United account can be a freeing experience. The freedom to save more than $2,000 without impacting eligibility for means tested government benefits. Freedom to save and invest based on the goals of the account holder. Freedom to use funds in the account for a variety of expenses that help improve or maintain health, independence, or quality of life.
Once an account has been opened, it’s important for account holders to understand all of the possibilities it allows to save and invest in their futures.
Save up to $15,000 annually.
At ABLE United, we recommend account holders take an honest assessment of their financial goals, as that will help determine how to manage their account appropriately.
It’s important to start each year with a plan on how best to maximize ABLE account contributions. The keys to success are keeping up with the selected investment options, their performance and the ability to make changes to invested funds twice a year.
Save with the help of family and friends.
Anyone may contribute to an ABLE United account electronically through the account Gifting page or through the mail using the Gifting form. Think outside the box – this could include friends and family, as well as a church or civic-based organization.
In order for an account holder to create their Gifting page, login to the account and create an event under the eGift tab. Email or share the unique Gifting page to allow anyone to contribute electronically to the account.
Rollover funds from a 529 College Savings Plan.
Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law last year, families who were saving for higher education expenses for their child with a disability, or who have family members with unused funds, can rollover funds from a 529 college savings account into an ABLE account. These types of rollovers do count towards the $15,000 annual maximum contribution limit.
Use an ABLE United account with a Special Needs Trust.
Special Needs Trusts (SNT) can work in conjunction with an ABLE United account. If an account holder has both, it’s important to discuss with the trustee or an attorney on how an SNT can fund an ABLE account. An SNT is part of estate planning and can encompass non-cash assets, requires an attorney to set up, and can be costly. ABLE accounts are generally more appealing for everyday use as they are flexible, grow tax-free, and are low-cost to maintain.
We hope you’ll kick off 2019 with ABLE United by opening an account – and for those of you that already are account holders, our hope is that you get the most out of your account and in turn, your future.
ABLE United provides options no matter what Gunner’s future holds
Gunner Brandt is a happy, spirited young boy who loves the outdoors – and as a South Florida native that includes being in or on the water. Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and more recently with speech apraxia, Gunner does not let his limited verbal communication skills impact how he shows his affection and appreciation for those that help him throughout his day.
“He wakes up with a smile on his face and jumps on the bed – excited for the day,” says Phoebe St. Germain Fellows, Gunner’s mother and an ABLE United brand ambassador. Gunner’s enthusiasm for life is contagious.
Prior to the launch of ABLE United, Fellows attended a workshop at Nova Southeastern University’s Miami campus where she was introduced to the program that would allow her to begin saving tax-free for her son’s future.
“I am grateful that ABLE United exists not just for my son, but for all Floridians,” said Fellows. “My mother has been in the finance industry for years, and we had struggled to find a solution given the limitations he may face with a special needs trust and also his college savings account that we had opened for him when he was born.”
“Like all parents, my hope is that my son is able to live a happy and healthy life – and that he has the opportunity to work independently and save his money as I believe individuals with disabilities can make a real impact when they are encouraged to work in fields that they love,” Phoebe St. Germain Fellows
Every day, ABLE United works to provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to save for a better life experience, and Fellows and her family continue to add funds to Gunner’s account on a yearly basis.
In the future, account holders will have options – no matter what their future holds. New enhancements to ABLE United accounts include the ABLE to Work integration, which allows a beneficiary who is working and not contributing to a retirement plan, the ability to contribute above the $15,000 annual maximum contribution limit.
At ABLE United, we are proud to work with like-minded organizations to further advance our mission of helping individuals with disabilities to Achieve a Better Life Experience. You may be familiar with our newest partner, Best Buddies Florida, an organization that is deep-rooted in our state with strong programs that enrich the lives of youth and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
To date, Best Buddies is represented in more than 200 elementary, middle, high schools and college campuses across Florida and has matched nearly 100 adults with IDD in one-to-one friendships in the Citizens programs in Central and South Florida. This has resulted in more than 2,600 friendships happening across the state of Florida right now.
Best Buddies Florida also offers a supported employment program, Best Buddies Jobs, in key markets across the state including Broward, Central Florida, Miami and Palm Beach. Florida staff members are currently supporting 155 adults and youth with disabilities who are either seeking or successfully employed in the community.
“Through inclusion programs that focus on one-to-one friendships, leadership development and integrated job opportunities for those with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), Best Buddies envisions a world where those with an IDD will someday be successfully integrated into schools, workplaces and communities,” said Andi Allen, State Director for Best Buddies Florida.
In addition to the great programs offered across the state, the six area offices plan and host regional events and trainings. These events and trainings are designed to help support the growth and development of Best Buddies student leaders and its participants with IDD. The most well-known events are the annual Best Buddies Friendship Walks. These walks are community-wide events geared towards raising awareness of programs and most importantly, celebrating the amazing friendships that happen throughout the year. This year alone, over 5,800 students, teachers, parents, siblings, and community members attended seven walk events across the state to demonstrate to their local communities the power of friendship.
“Organizations like ABLE United who support independence and quality of life for those with an IDD are instrumental in ensuring our vision becomes a reality. Through our partnership with ABLE United we are able to offer a financial savings resource to our program participants,” said Allen. “A resource that acknowledges the unique financial circumstances faced within the IDD community and affords those with special needs the opportunity to save, plan and invest for the future which was once not an option.”
By working together, we can make an impact and further enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities in Florida.