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Steps to take if you have a special needs child

If you’ve only got a minute:

  • It is vital to take time to discuss your personal goals, and goals for your child with your spouse to ensure you are on the same page.
  • Work hand-in-hand with your doctor to better understand the kind of help that might be needed, and potential costs involved to help in your budgeting.
  • If possible, consult a reliable and experienced financial advisor to discuss your financial journey and options to work toward long-term financial security.
  • Guard against caregiver fatigue by speaking to a trained counsellor and carving out time for yourself to recharge.

A great amount of personal responsibility goes into raising a child in a wholesome and loving environment. This goes beyond just investing time and finances and includes being physically, mentally, and emotionally present.

While having a child with special needs is not what any parent expects, it does not take away the joys of parenthood. If you are such a parent, a little planning can go a long way in helping to smoothen the road ahead.

Being prepared will help you remain calm in the event of additional commitments that arise along the way – financially, mentally, or otherwise.

What to expect if you’re expecting

If you are expecting a child, congratulations! Regardless of whether you are a new parent or expecting another bundle of joy, the latest addition to your family will come with its own set of responsibilities and concerns.

When it comes to mental and financial preparedness, it is important for both you and your spouse to communicate effectively and to be on the same page.

As a baseline, aim to have at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of monthly expenses set aside as emergency cash savings. If you have other dependents, this should be adjusted up accordingly.

For freelance or gig workers, the recommended emergency savings is 12 months or more.

Having a comprehensive overview of your finances offers greater clarity in money management. To do so, sync your financial information from other banks, insurers, CDP, HDB, IRAS, and CPF with SGFinDex on the “Plan & Invest” tab in digibank.

With that, you can better manage your budget and review your expenses – especially your discretionary spend constantly, to ensure a healthier cashflow.

Find out more about: Plan on digibank – Supercharged by SGFinDex

What to expect with a special needs child

At the start of pregnancy, obstetricians offer antenatal (pre-birth) diagnostic screening tests for any chromosomal anomalies and inherited genes. This is especially encouraged for pregnant women over the age of 35.

While this decision is entirely up to you, many parents choose to have these tests done as it gives them more time to prepare for any potential complications or just to have the assurance that all is well with their child.

Depending on the diagnosis, some anomalies can be detected pre-birth, while others may only be diagnosed in early childhood. For example, chromosomal (e.g. Down Syndrome) and genetic (e.g. Thalassaemia) disorders can be tested for pre-birth, while others like Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, dyscalculia) can be conclusively tested for only after birth.

Planning ahead

For any family with a special needs child, there are additional considerations to keep in mind while planning – not only for your child but for yourself too.

On top of the regular health and milestone check-ups during pregnancy and birth, further testing may be needed if any anomalies surface. This will add on to the overall costs and must be included in your budgeting.

In general, the more severe the disability, the more expensive the lifetime cost of raising your child. How your child’s condition will affect his/her daily life will give you an idea of how much physical, emotional, and financial support he/she will require over the years.

Read more: How young parents can plan their finances

Where to start

Consult your doctor and find out pertinent information on what to expect based on the type of disability your child might face. Is it likely that extra physical or behavioural therapy is needed as your child grows up? What is the level of hands-on care that might be needed?

You can start by writing down a list of expected expenses from birth until their targeted independence.

These should include your regular gynaecologist visits, standard scans and examinations, pre-natal checks, the various delivery costs (i.e. natural birth vs Caesarean birth), and the cost of your hospital stay depending on type of ward and hospital, among others.

Some additional foetal abnormality tests that you may consider are as follows.



Estimated cost

One-Stop Clinic for Assessment of Risk (OSCAR) test

Identifies foetal abnormalities (especially Down Syndrome)


Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Identifies gestational diabetes


Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests (NIPT)

Detects Down Syndrome by using the mother’s blood to get the baby’s DNA sample


Detailed foetal anomaly scan

Checks for structural abnormalities within the foetus (including facial clefts, heart structure abnormalities, spine etc)


Bear in mind that depending on the level of support required, you or your spouse might need to reduce working hours or stay home fully to be with your child. A professionally trained carer or domestic helper may also be an option to help you lighten your load.

In such a scenario, you will be looking at reduced income and elevated expenses. This makes having a comprehensive plan for budgeting even more vital.

Over time, some of these expenses can go up or down depending on the eventual level of support, therapy, or intervention your child needs. If possible, it is prudent to increase your emergency cash buffer for this reason.

In such cases, it is better to overbudget for your expenses and adjust downwards accordingly, rather than underbudget and be left scrambling to find extra cashflow should an upward adjustment be necessary.

The MediSave Maternity Package under the Marriage and Parenthood Scheme  allows you to withdraw up to $900 for selected pre-delivery medical expenses and covers additional surgical and hospitalisation claims subject to a withdrawal limit.

Ongoing expenses

As your child grows and develops, there will be other expenses to consider.

An often overlooked one is the increase in travel costs due to travelling to and from therapy or activities. In addition, there may be additional medication and cost of support like physical or behavioural therapy, occupational therapy and/or assistive technology. These costs will vary significantly depending on whether you opt for public or private healthcare.

When it comes to education, a variety of options are also available.

Before the age of 7, you can enrol your child in programmes that offer educational support, such as the Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) and Development Support Program1 which will cost between $5 to $430 per month depending on the needs of your child, the centre you enrol in, and the government subsidies you are eligible for.

For education at primary schools, there are mainstream schools which provide specialised support for children with mild special needs under the Ministry of Education (MOE), including having an Allied Educator (AE) to help your child in school and having access arrangements such as additional time during an exam for students who are deemed to need it.

Alternatively, you can consider a Special Education (SPED2) school which may offer a specialised curriculum for your child. Fees for SPED schools are higher than that of a mainstream MOE school. As such, you should factor it into your budget where applicable.

Another option to consider is to enrol your child in a vocational training institute. Here, they can learn work skills to prepare them for future employment. Most of these institutes also help to connect their graduates with potential employers.

Remember to ask any organisations you speak with on the availability of subsidies or grants you can tap to reduce your expenses.

What to expect in the future

For most parents, one of your aims for your child is to achieve independence – both financially and emotionally – in their adulthood.

As an end-goal, you should strive for some form of employment for your child. This can help boost a person’s overall well-being and confidence through building a sense of fulfilment and ownership.

Some children with disabilities can be completely independent in their adulthood, while others with more severe conditions may need lifelong care. Consider whether your child is fully or partially able to support him/herself when you are no longer around.

Do you have family members who are willing and able to provide the level of care your child needs after you are gone? Or do you have to ensure arrangements are made for your child to be cared for in a special home when the time comes?

Forward planning in these various aspects is vital so that your child will have the necessary support in place when you are no longer able to provide for him/her.

Read more: Financial planning with a special needs child

It takes a village

The old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”, is more relevant than ever for a family with a special needs member.

Being plugged into a community will play a big part in providing necessary support from people who share common struggles, and even some who have overcome them.

You can also consider volunteering with schools, homes or special needs organisations (e.g. Minds, AWWA, SPD) to increase your exposure and experience with caring for someone who needs higher levels of dependence. This will also be a fulfilling and enriching experience as you give back to the community.

If you feel overwhelmed, speak to a professional counsellor to help in dealing with caregiver fatigue. Ensure that you and your partner plan downtimes for yourselves as well. After all, if you fall sick or burn out, you will be unable to provide the optimal level of care your child needs.

In terms of your finances, look for a reliable and experienced financial advisor who has had clients in similar situations to discuss your financial journey and work towards long-term financial security.

Ready to start?

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1 Enabling Guide by SG Enable, “Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) and Development Support Plus (DS-Plus)”. Retrieved 28 Aug 2023.
2 Ministry of Education Singapore, “Special education (SPED) schools”. Retrieved 28 Aug 2023.

Disclaimers and Important Notice
This article is meant for information only and should not be relied upon as financial advice. Before making any decision to buy, sell or hold any investment or insurance product, you should seek advice from a financial adviser regarding its suitability.

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