FAMILY COMES FIRST
IT TAKES A VILLAGE – BLANCO FAMILY
INTRODUCTION IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
LAURA BLANCO VINCENT J. RUSSO VICTORIA ROBERTS-DROGIN ELLENMORRIS TIEGERMAN CHRISTINE AUSTIN MONSIGNOR MCNAMARA
1 MR. BLANCO: I was actually more in denial
2 than Laura was: That can’t be. My child’s not
4 MRS. BLANCO: Before I used to think that I
5 want him to be a doctor, a lawyer. Now, I just want him
6 to be like a regular kid, a regular teenager.
7 MR. BLANCO: We’re Alejandrofs only
8 advocate. We’re the ones that will fight the most for
9 him. And if we don’t do it, then he doesn’t have anyone
10 else to do it. Alejandro’s disability has actually
11 brought us closer together.
12 MR. RUSSO: Welcome everyone to Family Comes
13 First. I’m Vincent J. Russo.
14 -MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And I’m Victoria
15 Roberts-Drogin. Thank you for joining us today. One in
16 every ninety-one children born today in the United
17 States is diagnosed with this condition.
18 MR. RUSSO: It is estimated that
19 approximately one million children and adults are living
20 with this special need.
21 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: We are talking about
22 autism. Today we will speak to the Blanco family. When
23 Alejandro was born, Alex and Laura never imagined that
24 their child would be anything but normal.
25 MR. RUSSO: But first we have experts with
1. us, who can provide resources and answers to the many
2 questions that parents have regarding their child with
3 autism. Welcome, Doctor Ellenmorris Tiegerman, founder
4 and executive director of the School for Language and
5 Communication Development, SLCD, and Christine Austin, a
6 behavior specialist at the school.
7 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Thank you both so much
8 for joining us. Welcome.
9 MS. TIEGERMAN: Thank you.
10 MS. AUSTIN: Thank you.
11 MR. RUSSO: Thank you. I’m going to start
12 with — can I call you Doctor “T?”
13 MS. TIEGERMAN: Absolutely.
14 MR. RUSSO: I just love that. So my first
15 question is what does it mean when a child is diagnosed
16 with autism or is on the spectrum?
17 MS. TIEGERMAN: Autism is a developmental
18 disability. We’re very lucky today that we’re able to
19 diagnose it usually between 18 and 24 months. But
20 parents really need to look at three primary
21 characteristics, if they have concerns; deficits in
22 language, social, and behavioral skills. If they focus
23 on those three things and they have any developmental
24 concerns, then they need to see their pediatrician. In
25 addition to that, autism runs along a spectrum. There’s
1 a continuum here of those three behaviors, ranging from
2 children who can’t communicate at all, all the way up to
3 children who have Asperger Syndrome, and are able to
4 speak and communicate, but they have social skills that
5 are problematic.
6 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Would you tell us a
7 little bit about the school, SLCD —
8 MS. TIEGERMAN: Sure.
9 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: How it started, how
10 many students you service?
11 MS. TIEGERMAN: Sure. I started SLCD about
12 26 years ago. And the reason that I started it was
13 because I grew up with a younger sister who had a
14 developmental disability. So when I had the opportunity
15 to open a school that focused primarily on this
16 population — but our philosophy is in terms of language
17 development. I started the school in 1985 and it’s —
18 we’ve never looked back since then.
19 MR. RUSSO: Okay. Well, what makes your
20 school different?
21 MS. TIEGERMAN: Well, I think there are a
22 couple of things that parents need to think about. And
23 one is, generally speaking, the school district provides
24 supportive services in special education. Any school
25 district on Long Island. They all have very, very good
1 programs. But I think the issue for a parent is whether
2 or not their child can function in the least restrictive
3 environment, which is a general education class. So if
4 I’m going to make a comparison for a parent, I would say
5 if your child can function, in terms of his language,
6 social, and behavioral skills, in a regular classroom,
7 then that’s where he needs to be. If he needs a very
8 intensive program, like an IC unit in a hospital, where
9 there’s a tremendous amount of intensive training, and
10 therapeutic services, then the parent really needs to
11 look at a non-public school, like SLCD. What makes us
12 different is the fact that our entire philosophy focuses
13 on language development and training.
14 MR. RUSSO: You really were a trailblazer
15 when you started this school up. How many kids, again,
16 are you serving today?
17 MS. TIEGERMAN: We can serve 540 children.
18 MR. RUSSO: Wow.
19 MS. TIEGERMAN: So we have an elementary
20 school in Glen Cove, a middle school in Woodside and a high school program in Richmond Hill —
21 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Wow.
22 MS. TIEGERMAN: And a high school program in
23 Richmond Hill.
24 MR. RUSSO: Did you ever think this would
25 grow the way it has over the years?
1 MS. TIEGERMAN: No. I did not. It’s a
2 dream come true.
3 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And a tremendous need.
4 MS. TIEGERMAN: Yes. Absolutely.
5 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Christine, could you
6 tell us a little bit about the teaching approach in the
7 classroom, for your children and students?
8 MS. AUSTIN: Sure. Sure. Absolutely.
9 Basically, for our children who are on the spectrum, or
10 any of our children, really, in our school, our
11 philosophy is language-based, as Doctor T had said.
12 We ? re working towards language development. We f re
13 working towards the New York State curriculum. What
14 makes us different and makes us unique, our program, is
15 that we use a trans-disciplinary approach in our
16 programs. We have speech therapists. We have
17 occupational therapists. We have physical therapists.
18 We have special education teachers. We have art
19 therapists and music therapists. What weTre doing right
20 now is we’re collaborating in the classrooms. We1re
21 using a trans-disciplinary model to work with these
22 children on the spectrum.
23 MS. TIEGERMAN: So we will do anything to
24 get a child to talk and communicate. That!s our primary
1 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Maybe not by speaking,
3 MS. TIEGERMAN: You’re absolutely right,
4 because there are other mechanisms and, you know, sort
5 of modalities for children; communication boards, we
6 teach sign language —
7 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That’s great.
8 MS. TIEGERMAN: So we will do — we’ll use
9 any technique to get a child to communicate in a
11 MR. RUSSO: What kind of problems do the
12 parents have, raising a child with autism?
13 MS. TIEGERMAN: I think they have
14 significant problems, particularly at the beginning.
15 And they don’t know what it is that they’re looking at
16 or looking for. And then once the child is diagnosed,
17 there’s a tremendous amount of frustration and guilt,
18 because parents don’t know what to look at going
19 forward. I would describe a family as a mobile, and if
20 you have typical children, then the mobile is in
21 balance. When you have a child with special needs, the
22 mobile is out of balance. And what families really need
23 to learn to do, once the child is diagnosed, is come
24 back into balance.
25 MR. RUSSO: I think the first step might be,
1 with some parents, it’s a denial.
2 MS. TIEGERMAN: Yes. There’s really a
3 continuum, a process, emotionally for parents. ItFs
4 very difficult for them to accept the fact that the
5 child has special needs. Particularly a label like
7 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Right.
8 MS. TIEGERMAN: So it!s a learning process
9 in a family to understand what that label actually
10 means, and then what the long-term implications are.
11 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Even to know what to
12 look for.
13 MS. TIEGERMAN: Yes.
14 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: You know, the symptoms
15 that may or may not indicate something are hard to
16 recognize sometimes.
17 MS. TIEGERMAN: Yes.
18 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What kind of things can
19 parents do at home to support children who are in the
20 school system?
21 MS. AUSTIN: Well, basically at home,
22 parents really need to be – and what Doctor T was saying
23 – is that they have a difficult role at home. They’re
24 the parents, first and foremost, but then they also need
25 to become, at certain points, their teachers, as well.
1 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And an advocate, too.
2 MS. AUSTIN: And an advocate, absolutely,
3 for their students. You know, the difficulties they
4 face is how do I teach my child – working with families
5 – how do I teach my child to ask for help* How do I
6 teach my child to ask for more. To tell me that they
7 need the bathroom. Things like that. So really the
8 problems that families do face is the support services.
9 So they really need to educate themselves, as far as
10 what support services are out there. We offer a lot of
11 support services through our organization for families,
12 for our families. We have evaluation services. We have
13 parent-training services, as well.
14 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Doctor T, what’s the
15 long-term prognosis for children with autism?
16 MS. TIEGERMAN: I think today, you know,
17 when I look back at my sister’s disability, many, many
18 years ago, today the prognosis is excellent. We have a
19 high school, as I said, in Queens. And we can see our
20 students coming up. Most of them have had early
21 intervention. They’ve been in special education for 15,
22 16 years. And when 1 look at, you know, the graduation
23 rate, and what’s available for them once they do
24 graduate, it is tremendous. Because the whole focus
25 today is really on developing supports in the community,
1 so that adults with disabilities can enter the
2 workforce, and live independently-
3 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It’s tremendous.
4 MS. TIEGERMAN: It is. It’s wonderful.
5 MR. RUSSO: And we have such a gap. I’m so
6 concerned about housing for these adults, especially the
7 young adults. You know, we take care of our parents in
8 nursing homes and assisted living, and we take care of
9 our children when they’re young, at home, and, you know,
10 we really have this gap. And I know that’s something
11 you’re thinking about very much, about how do you have
12 that continuum and then give housing options —
13 MS. TIEGERMAN: Yes. We’re very, very
14 concerned about that issue, given the economics going on
15 in our environment, because there’s literally a registry
16 on Long Island, and 2400 adults with disabilities are
17 waiting for placements. And it’s a 5 to 10 year waiting
19 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Wow.
20 MS. TIEGERMAN: It’s — to me, it’s very,
21 very disturbing. So we’re looking to develop a
22 residence for our families.
23 MR. RUSSO: Okay. We’re running out of
24 time, so quickly, what would be one or two key questions
25 parents should be asking of their school, if they have a
1 child with autism?
2 MS. TIEGERMAN: What kind of services do you
3 provide in this program? And what kind of supports are
4 you going to provide for my child in that classroom,
5 with 25 other typical learners?
6 MR. RUSSO: Well, thank you so much. I wish
7 we had a whole hour just to keep you in the studio here,
8 with all the questions we have.
9 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So valuable. Thank
10 you, so much.
11 MS. TIEGERMAN: Thank you. Thank you both.
12 MS. AUSTIN: Thank you.
13 MR. RUSSO: Thank you for being here.
14 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Recently we sat down
15 with Alex and Laura Blanco, to learn about Alejandro.
16 And we’ll also meet his younger brother and his baby
18 MR. BLANCO: Alejandro was about 20 months
19 when Gabriel was born. That’s when we first realized
2 0 that something might be wrong, because Alejandro was
21 typically developing. He walked early. He stood early.
22 He spoke early. Had about 20 or so words, at the time,
23 and once Gabriel came into the house, he started to
24 speak a lot less. He would go off into the corner and
25 be by himself. Not really speak at all to us or make
1 eye contact with us. So it’s one of those things where
2 we’ve brought him to the doctor, and the doctor told us
3 not to worry. That this was normal and when a new kid
4 comes into the home, children typically will react that
5 way, and that wasn’t the case- Alejandro was indeed
6 autistic and when we had him evaluated, they told us
7 that he was on the autism spectrum, and that he was
8 moderately autistic. In other words, it was something
10 MRS, BLANCO: I was really sad and I didn’t
11 know what to think. I thought that it was something
12 wrong that I did on the pregnancy, or something that I
13 ate, or — I didn’t know what to think about it. I
14 never heard that word. I never knew anything.
15 MR. BLANCO: I remember when we first
16 started to tell our family and friends and, you know,
17 initially, when my mother would come over, she’d spend
18 most of the time in the bathroom, crying about it. We
19 don’t have that luxury. We had to move on. And it’s
20 something that we talk about and pray about. And we’re
21 always together and help each other in so many different
22 ways. But we’re Alejandro’s only advocate. We’re the
23 ones that will fight the most for him and if we don’t do
24 it, then he doesn’t have anyone else to do it. It was
25 very tough to continue having a regular nine to five.
1 Banking hours are supposed to be nine to three, but it’s
2 never just nine to three or nine to five. And Laura
3 really needed a lot more help at home with him. And I
4 had been an advisor in the bank, as well, and decided to
5 open my own practice, helping families with children
6 with disabilities, and tailored my advising practice
7 towards that. You need different advisors, and
8 different professionals and therapists to help you.
9 Your family, friends, because it’s so tough to raise a
10 child with a disability. You need all the support you
11 can get. I find in my practice, not only that people
12 come in, in denial, that they won’t come in and they’re
13 in denial. And that’s actually one of the toughest
14 things to deal with, for me, because I know that I can
15 help. I know that they are in trouble. I know what
16 their kid’s going through. And the longer you wait,
17 early on, the more damage it will do. Early
18 intervention, when you can get help for someone very
19 early on, and they can get past the denial, it can
20 make a world of difference. You can bring your child
21 back. Alejandro got early intervention very late,
22 because we were in denial. At first, we weren’t really
23 concerned. We knew we wanted to have more children.
24 Alejandro was typically developing. We didn’t have that
25 many concerns. It was as things started to go a little
1 wrong, or he started to lose his words and speak less,
2 Laura was already, you know, quite a ways into her
3 pregnancy and the doctors were obviously telling us that
4 he was fine. So we didn’t –we weren’t that concerned
5 with him. We were more concerned with Isabella.
6 MRS. BLANCO: It took us five years to have
7 Isabella, because we were concerned that we were going
8 to have another child like Alejandro. But then we
9 always wanted to have a girl. So we try again. And we
10 have a girl. Now, we just worry about all the things.
11 MR. BLANCO: When we made the decision to
12 continue to have children and have Isabella, we did it
13 because we didn’t want to be afraid. You can always be
14 scared, always be afraid. Will our children get sick?
15 Will they have a disability? Will he run into the
16 street? We didn’t want to live life that way; to always
17 be afraid. That’s why we try to keep as much of a
18 normal life as possible. Family vacations, and family
19 events, and birthdays, and parties, and taking him to
20 different places. Because the more we expose him to
21 that, the more he’11 have a normal life, whether he has
22 a disability or not.
23 MRS. BLANCO: I just hope that someday he
24 will learn how to drive, how to take care of himself,
25 have friends. Before I used to think that I want him to
1 be a doctor, a lawyer. Now I just want him to be like a
2 regular kid, a regular teenager.
3 MR. BLANCO: Alejandro’s disability has
4 actually brought us closer together. We have a great
5 family and support. We pray about it. And I think
6 we’re just good for each other. We complement each
7 other, very well. And we work very well together.
8 We’re a good team.
9 MR. RUSSO: We are now joined by Alex and
10 Laura Blanco. Thank you for being here.
11 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Welcome.
12 MR. RUSSO: And also Isabella. So
14 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And busy.
15 MR. RUSSO: There you go. Yes, a busy
16 child, here. Great to have you with us. I’m going to
17 just take you back seven years ago. Alejandro was born,
18 your first child, and at some point there were some
19 concerns. Talk a little about what those concerns were
2 0 and how they surfaced?
21 MR. BLANCO: Well, shortly after Gabriel was
22 born, Alejandro was approximately 20 months old, and he
23 started to go into the corner, not make eye contact with
24 us, and become less social. And he had always talked
25 and was developing ahead of schedule. At that point he
13 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: At that point, what was
14 — I guess, at that point and now, you know, as it’s
15 progressed, what was a typical day like for you then
16 with him, for you, you know —
17 MR. BLANCO: You’re involved in every aspect
18 of the child’s life. You always have an eye on him,
19 because it’s always a flight response, where they could
20 escape and be in danger. And also, you know, everything
21 from your daily skills of, you know, going to the
22 bathroom, and eating, and feeding, and bathing, all
23 require a one-to-one help and aid.
24 MR. RUSSO: Your whole focus shifts
1 just stopped. We thought at first that maybe he was a
2 little jealous of Gabriel, and everybody told us it was
3 normal, but when we had him checked out, we indeed found
4 out that he was on the autism spectrum and he was
5 moderately autistic.
6 MR. RUSSO: Okay. It had to be a shock.
7 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Right.
8 MR. BLANCO: Yes. It took us a long time to
9 get over that.
10 MR. RUSSO: Sure.
11 MR. BLANCO: And get him some help.
12 MR. RUSSO: Sure.
1 MR. BLANCO: Yes, it does.
2 MR. RUSSO: And now, you know, we gotta make
3 sure Alejandrofs safe, and happy, and doing well, and
4 then everything falls around that. That’s what happened
5 with our Teresa, when she came into our lives, and it
6 just dramatically, just changed our lives in a moment.
7 MR. BLANCO: You try to, as much as you can,
8 make it as normal a life as possible, and include the
9 siblings, as well, and have them interact as much as
10 they can.
11 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Right. And how is
12 that? How do they interact? I mean, this little angel
13 here takes up a lot of time now, you know. How does
14 that work? How are they with the baby? How are the
15 kids with Alejandro?
16 MR. BLANCO: Gabriel, that’s all he knows.
17 MRS. BLANCO: Gabriel is a help. He’s
18 really good with Alejandro. He always says “don’t worry
19 mommy, I’m going to teach Alejandro how to talk.”
20 “Don’t worry.” “I’m gonna help him.” He’s really good.
21 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So he became the
22 helper. He became your little ~~
23 MR. BLANCO: Every time he makes a little
24 bit of progress, or does something new, or learns a new
25 skill, Gabriel always tells us “we found another piece
1 to the puzzle,” the autism puzzle. ltTs very cute.
2 MRS. BLANCO: “How many pieces we need
3 more?” “How many more we need now?”
4 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That’s beautiful,
6 MR. RUSSO: Laura,that must make you feel
7 really good, the support you get from your second child.
8 I know how important it was to have a second child, and
9 now a third. So Laura, what’s your day like, now that
10 you have three children?
11 MRS. BLANCO: Well, morning — breakfast,
12 and put the kids in school and then I have time for the
13 little one. And then I have to make lunch when
14 Alejandro comes back and then we have all the therapies.
15 MR. RUSSO: Right. Therapies in the
17 MRS. BLANCO: Yes.
18 MR. RUSSO: You must get real tired, at that
2 0 MRS. BLANCO: Right.
21 MR. RUSSO: Yeah.
22 MRS. BLANCO: And he needs to have a break,
23 so I try to have like 45 minutes, a half an hour,
24 between therapies, so at least he have a break.
25 MR. RUSSO: Let me ask you about Alejandro,
1 and what he likes doing; what makes him happy?
2 MR. BLANCO: He loves the water. He loves the
3 pool, and beach, and, you know, the swing. He’s a very
4 active child. Trampoline. Anything like that will get
5 him smiling ear to ear. Playing with daddy. Now he’s
6 even interacting in playing soccer with his younger
7 brother, Gabriel, and they kick the ball back and forth
8 to each other.
9 MR. RUSSO: Great.
10 MR. BLANCO: It’s very nice.
11 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That•s great.
12 MR. BLANCO: And it’s good to see. We were
13 very hopeful that something like that would happen
15 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What are some of your
16 goals, and I guess concerns and goals, for him in the
17 future as he grows up?
18 MR. BLANCO: Well, Laura and I have a little
19 bit of a difference of opinion yet —
2 0 MR. RUSSO: So then we want to hear from
21 both of you.
22 MS. ROBERTS-DROGlN: Separately.
23 MR. RUSSO: Equal talk.
24 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Each of you.
25 MRS. BLANCO: I want him to be independent.
1 MR. RUSSO: Okay.
2 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Okay. And that means 3
4 MRS. BLANCO: Able to work, to drive a car
6 MR. RUSSO: Right.
7 MRS. BLANCO: To live on his own.
8 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yeah.
9 MRS. BLANCO: Things like that.
10 MR. RUSSO: Sure.
11 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Um-hmm.
12 MR. RUSSO: Okay —
13 MR. BLANCO: From that aspect, you know, we
14 want the same thing. I think we will go at it a
15 different way. I’d like for him to eventually, you
16 know, get out of the house and have a job and be
17 independent in that way. And Laura, I think, kind of
18 hopes maybe that he — she sees him more in the house,
19 kind of staying with us for the longer term. And I’d
2 0 like to get him going —
21 MR. RUSSO: Well, we’re going to have you
22 back a number of years from now and we’ll find out —
23 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And see how you’re all
24 doing. Yeah.
25 MRS. BLANCO: See how he!s changed.
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1 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yes.
2 MR. RUSSO: But it’s important to have all
3 these hopes. It really is. And things can happen in a
4 very positive way. What accommodations are being made
5 at school for him?
6 MR. BLANCO: Well, he’s in a special program
7 and I think they’re doing a fantastic job. We see the
8 progress. It is slow. It is steady. You know, there
9 are times where he’11 take a step forward and two steps
11 MR. RUSSO: Right.
12 MR. BLANCO: During the breaks, it’s always
13 some regression. During the school breaks, vacations,
14 and things like that, but —
15 MR. RUSSO: Is progress being made?
16 MR. BLANCO: Progress is definitely being
17 made. And he’s a bright boy. His biggest difficulty is
18 his speech and language.
19 MR. RUSSO: His communication.
20 MR. BLANCO: Yeah.
21 MR. RUSSO: So just briefly, a message that
22 you’d like to share with other parents, who have a child
23 who is autistic, or on the spectrum. Laura, what
24 message —
25 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: As a mom.
1 MR. RUSSO: As a mom.
2 MRS. BLANCO: Just love him.
3 MR. RUSSO: Love him,
4 MR. BLANCO: And for me, just try to make
5 it, as much as you can, a normal life for them. Keep
6 them engaged. Don’t keep them locked in the house. You
7 know, we can’t go here, we can’t go there, because we
8 have an autistic child. Get him out on vacations. Get
9 him going to birthday parties. Get him out. And if you
10 think your child might have something, have them checked
11 out and get early intervention as soon as possible.
12 That makes all the difference. And that’s very
13 difficult to do initially, when you’re in the shock —
14 MR. RUSSO: Right.
15 MR. BLANCO: And in denial.
16 MR. RUSSO: Sure.
17 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Sure.
18 MR. BLANCO: But it’s when you can really
19 help the child the most, in those early years.
20 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yeah. Early
22 MR. RUSSO: That’s a wonderful message that
23 you both have sent out to all our viewers. Thank you,
24 so much.
25 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And thank you for
1 bringing this little angel to the show.
2 MR. BLANCO: Thank you for having us,
3 MRS, BLANCO: Thank you for having us.
4 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: She’s so wonderful,
5 MR. RUSSO: Great to have you on Family
6 Comes First.
7 MR, BLANCO: Pleasure, Thank you.
8 MRS. BLANCO: Thank you.
9 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And now we turn to
10 Monsignor McNamara, for a spiritual reflection.
11 MONSIGNOR MCNAMARA: He will find rest for
12 your souls. Alex and Laura Blanco, quickly learned to
13 cope with the discovery that their first born,
14 Alejandro, is autistic. They find rest for their souls
15 through prayer and bonding of family and friends. I
16 admire the way they keep hope alive. Every parent has
17 dreams for their children, and Laura admits she dreamt
18 her son would be a doctor or a lawyer. She doesn’t lose
19 hope. She simply adjusts her dreams, and hopes that her
20 son will be able to live a normal life. Her hopes are
21 bolstered by the love and care the entire family gives
22 to Alejandro, Alejandro’s disability has brought them
23 closer together. He is not a burden. He is a beautiful
24 young boy and he brings joy to his family. He is a
25 child of God, who in his own unique way, is precious in
1 God’s eyes.
2 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Vincent, there’s so
3 much to know and understand. What can the Blancos do
4 with respect to their legal planning?
5 MR. RUSSO: Great question. First of all,
6 all parents should have a plan in place for their
7 children; a last will and testament, and advanced
8 directives. But in Alejandro’s situation, for the
9 family, I think a trust with supplemental needs for him,
10 because having assets passed to him directly will be
11 difficult, in terms of asset management, and adversely
12 affect government benefits. And more importantly, a
13 non-legal document, called a Memorandum of Intent, and
14 that document spells out everything the parent would
15 want the advocate or a surrogate to know, if God forbid
16 something should happen to them.
17 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What about resources
18 for parents, Vincent?
19 MR. RUSSO: Great question. Resources is so
20 important. And so first of all, we had today the School
21 for Language and Communication Development, and also,
22 there’s Autism United, Autism Speaks, and for a complete
23 listing of resources you can go to my law firm’s
24 website, at VJRussoLaw.com.
25 MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That’s terrific. The
1 Blancos have shown us that having a child with autism
2 can be a challenge, and also a blessing. It truly does
3 take a village of family, and community, and the
4 resources, to support all of our children, especially
5 those with special needs.
6 MR. RUSSO: So true. Thanks to all our
7 viewers for joining us and remember family truly does
8 come first. 9
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