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Attorney Mark Gilfix Spoke at Autism Society Conference

Attorney Mark Gilfix of the law firm Gilfix & La Poll Associates was invited to speak at the prestigious San Francisco Autism Society of America Annual Conference (SFASA). The November 17, 2018 all day conference was aimed at the informational needs of parents, caregivers and professionals who have the responsibility to support and help make plans for teens and adults with autism or related developmental disabilities. The event took place at the beautiful, state-of-the-art Li Ka Shing Center on the Stanford University campus.

Attorney Gilfix was one of the 50 featured speakers at the event. Mr. Gilfix understands the challenges of families with loved ones with special needs and taking care of them financially in the future. His discussion, titled “How Much Is Enough?” focused on the creation and funding of Special Needs Trusts. He spoke in detail how much is needed to adequately fund these trusts and the financial tools available, including life insurance and other investment structures.

In what is coming to be seen as the greatest public health and social services crisis of our time, California is facing an unprecedented, staggering surge in the number of residents with the developmental disability of autism. SFASA is committed to improving the quantity and quality of lifespan care options in our communities. Californians are facing unprecedented problems that demand unprecedented solutions and courageous leadership. SFASA is an all-volunteer organization and needs all autism families to share in the work ahead.

Gilfix & La Poll Associates has over 35 years of experience in the area of Special Needs Planning for families with children with Autism, and Attorney Gilfix is very proud to had been given the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful conference.

More detailed information on the conference can be found here.

New autism app shows potential for in-home screening of children

Early detection and intervention are important for individuals with autism, which is one of the most common childhood neurodevelopment disorders in the United States. However, many children do not get diagnosed until they are around four years of age due to factors such as lack of public awareness and long clinical appointment wait times.

A new iPhone app aims to change that by enabling parents to conduct in-home screenings to identify autism risk among children earlier in life. Autism and Beyond is a free app that was developed on Apple’s ResearchKit platform in an effort to address the lack of reliable tools for analyzing children’s behaviors and emotions outside clinical settings.

A recent study described the app as an innovative, easy-to-use and scalable way of identifying signs of autism and gathering accurate data in a child-friendly environment. Currently, autism screening occurs in clinical settings under the supervision of medical professionals. Parents can use the data from the app to determine whether clinical help is necessary for their child.

Autism and Beyond uses the smartphone’s camera to capture videos of how children react to movies that aim to prompt autism risk behaviors on the device’s screen. Behavioral coding software then automatically monitors the child’s facial expressions and converts them into data.

The app can help track a child’s changes over time. Not only can it potentially allow for earlier autism intervention, but the technology can also benefit underserved areas. The goal of the app developers is to provide parents with information about their child’s mental health that is easily accessible and scientifically sound.

Gilfix La Poll salute 10th annual PACE golf charity event

Autism rates are increasing in the United States. More resources and organizations are needed to provide support to families facing the challenges associated with Autism. This is one reason why the Gilfix & La Poll Associates law firm is a proud sponsor the Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) and its annual golf charity event. Attorney Mark Gilfix also serves on the PACE Board of Directors.

Gilfix La Poll salute 10th annual PACE golf charity event

PACE held the event at the Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in San Jose, California on September 28.

“PACE does so much incredible work that benefits individuals with autism, and their families,” said attorney Mark Gilfix of Gilfix La Poll Attorneys. “The best charities provide much-needed services to society’s overlooked members, and PACE does that right here in the Bay Area.”

Gilfix was among the many golfers who took part in the “best ball” tournament. His team completed their round with an impressive score of 68.

Afterward, Mark Gilfix served as the event emcee, and led the charity auction to help raise more money to assist local families and individuals dealing with autism.

“While it’s always fun to play golf, it’s even more rewarding to help raise money that directly helps our community’s autistic children and adults,” Gilfix said. “The auction was a roaring success, and I was so proud to have the opportunity to lead it.”

A group of concerned parents of those with autism founded the Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) in 1989 to provide care and educational opportunities for children and adults afflicted with autism. Prior to the founding of PACE, many children with autism were place in traditional classrooms where their needs were overlooked, and their educations lagged.

Now a registered nonprofit, PACE began with 14 students in 1989 and obtained a group home in 1992. Today, PACE serves more than 60 students in preschool through 12th grades and houses 36 children and adults afflicted with autism.

PACE also offers behavioral services for Bay-Area families to help their loved ones with autism to better interact with others and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

California may allow on-campus medical marijuana use for special needs students

Some children who have special needs depend on marijuana for medical treatment due to its purported therapeutic properties. Now, a California senator has introduced a bill that would allow local school boards to create policies that permit on-campus medical marijuana use for special needs students or those with serious disabilities.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who introduced the bill, said in a statement that the goal is to give “students access to the medicine they need so they have a better chance for success in the classroom and in the community.”

Under the measure, the child’s parent or guardian would be able to administer medical marijuana in various forms such as capsules, topical creams, tinctures or oils on school campuses that have the approval of the school district’s governing board. Currently, students from kindergarten through grade 12 must be off campus in order to have medical marijuana administered to them.

The legislation gives charter schools, county boards of education or governing boards of school districts the option to pass more permissive policies. Students seeking to use medical marijuana on campus would need to have a doctor’s recommendation.

As there are many different laws governing medical marijuana use, lawmakers are seeking to address any statutes that could potentially conflict with the measure. It appears the key force behind the legislation is ensuring the safety of special needs students. “We want to make sure that these children are able to take this medicinally recommended product in a safe environment rather than out on the street,” Hill said.

Experts warn of skyrocketing Alzheimer’s costs for caregivers

A recent PBS documentary about Alzheimer’s highlights the growing costs linked to caring for individuals diagnosed with the progressive disease. With millions of aging baby boomers at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, experts in the film warn that a financial “tidal wave” is looming over the country.

Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts” chronicles the struggles of people living with Alzheimer’s, as well as the emotional and financial impact of the chronic disease on their loved ones. Alzheimer’s affects not only the person diagnosed with it, but also the individuals tasked with caring for them.

The one-hour documentary shares the stories of two caregivers who look after their mothers, both of whom have Alzheimer’s. It weaves together personal stories with expert commentary from doctors and researchers against the backdrop of a larger sense of urgency.

While more than five million Americans currently have the disease, that number is projected to increase 55 percent by 2030. Because caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can cost tens of thousands of dollars, some experts predict the disease will soon overwhelm the health care system and lead to the collapse of Medicaid and Medicare.

In order to lessen the impact of the impending crisis, they are calling for an increase in government funding for Alzheimer’s research. Investing in studying the disease will allow researchers to find new ways of treating and preventing it.

In light of such predictions, preparing for the future becomes even more important. The attorneys at Gilfix and La Poll can guide families through the process of planning for long-term care while ensuring finances are protected.

Attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix are authors of “Facing the Reality of Long-Term Care.” This timely and practical book can be purchased at www.Gilfix.com.

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Betsy DeVos sparks concern among special education advocates

The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has caused concern among parents and advocates of children with special needs. They are worried about whether she will work in the best interests of the over 6.5 million students who require special education in school.

During her confirmation hearing in January, DeVos appeared to lack knowledge and understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is a landmark federal law that has governed special education since 1975. It allows children with developmental challenges or learning disabilities access to a “free appropriate public education.”

When questioned about whether public schools should be required to comply with IDEA, DeVos replied that its enforcement was “best left to the states.” Her response has led many special education advocates to fear that she is not committed to implementing the law.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the American Association of People with Disabilities commented, “Secretary DeVos has not expressed a strong commitment to public schools or to ensuring that all students, including students with disabilities, receive equal educational opportunities.”

Following the backlash that arose from her remarks DeVos wrote to Sen. Johnny Isakson, a member of the Senate education committee. In the letter she asserted her commitment to “protecting the hard won rights of students with disabilities.”

While helpful, the letter failed to completely eradicate doubts. Some advocacy groups are still worried about DeVos backing plans to use taxpayer money for vouchers for education at private schools that may not be required to comply with IDEA.

Ultimately, families want the security of knowing that their special needs child will have fair access to education just like any other child. It remains to be seen which direction the country’s vast education system will go in under its new leadership.

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The financial toll of caregiving on special needs families

American families provide around 1.5 billion hours of unpaid at-home care to about 5.6 million special needs children each year, according to the findings of a nationwide study. This represents a substantial economic cost of an estimated $36 billion in unpaid medical care annually.

Family members assist special needs children at home with everything from feeding and tracking medication to performing physical therapy and changing bandages. These health care tasks can be time-consuming and even highly technical at times.

The study found parents and guardians provide an average of 5.1 hours of medical care to a special needs child each week. For children with conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the number of hours doubles. However, those figures do not include additional time caregivers spend helping children with daily activities like bathing and dressing.

Researchers say caregiving takes a toll on the ability of parents to earn a living. Families forgo nearly $3,200 in earnings each year per child due to medical caregiving responsibilities. While home health aides are available to provide care, hiring them is often not a feasible option for many families as they can cost up to $6,400 annually per child.

Beyond financial challenges, researchers noted that caregiving responsibilities can also cause emotional stress. “Parents want to do everything they can for their children, but it can be a real challenge to juggle their ill child, their other children and sometimes their job,” said Mark Schuster, general pediatrics chief at Boston Children’s Hospital and senior investigator on the study.

Schuster suggested family caregivers need to be given more training and support. The researchers and his colleagues recommended paid family leave programs, improved care coordination, more communication with the child’s medical team and home visits by clinicians as strategies to help at-home care providers of special needs children.

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‘Finding Dory’ puts spotlight on children with special needs

Pixar’s recent film “Finding Dory” will have resonance for parents who have children with special needs. The animated film is the sequel to the 2003 blockbuster “Finding Nemo.” It tells the tale of a blue tang fish named Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. She cannot remember names, faces or even her way back home.

“Finding Dory” is about how the title character overcomes challenges. The filmmakers use flashbacks to show that Dory’s memory lapses are something she was born with and learns to manage. In the first film, her short-term memory loss was presented as a quirk. However, in the sequel audiences realize that Dory actually has special needs.

Her protective parents begin trying to figure out how their daughter can function in the larger world. For example, they create rhymes to help her remember important safety rules of swimming in the ocean and build seashell trails to guide her home. They also worry whether Dory will be fine on her own.

The systems that Dory’s parents put in place mirror the support that parents try to provide their special needs children. They may establish special needs trusts, seek specialized education or arrange for caregiver services to make their child’s life as comfortable as possible. Just as the support provided by Dory’s parents is specific to her, special needs children often require customized care.

Mitch Prinstein, clinical psychology director at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, told USA Today that he noticed parallels between the film’s depiction and the ways in which caregivers interact with kids who have developmental disabilities. He said the high-profile exposure Pixar has given to disabilities in the film opens up a discussion about the way mental disorders are viewed.

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Thank You For Making our 13th Annual Special Needs Seminar our Best Yet

Gilfix and La Poll wishes to thank the hundreds of attendees, and wonderful nonprofit co-sponsors, for making our 13th annual Special Needs Seminar our best yet!

We were overwhelmed with the response, and with all of the kind comments we received from seminar attendees. We were also thrilled to see many attendees connecting with co-sponsor support organizations, including:

  • Center for Independence of San Mateo
  • Children's Health Council
  • Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL)
  • Jewish Family and Children's Services
  • Life Services Alternatives, Inc.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE)
  • Parents Helping Parents and many more!

The seminars, lead by attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix, covered the importance and structure of special needs trusts, recent special needs legislative updates, including the Special Needs Trust Fairness and ABLE Acts, and an overview of how estate planning can incorporate these very important tools. Michael and Mark were thrilled with the quality of questions they received from audience members.

Gilfix and La Poll is proud to be one of the nation’s premiere special needs planning firms. We were overjoyed to connect with so many in the bay area community at our recent seminar.

We know many who signed up were unable to attend, and space and parking restraints meant we were unable to accommodate all who wanted to attend.

Because of this, we will be offering a special follow-up Special Needs Trust Seminar on June 22nd at the Bay Café (1875 Embarcadero Road) in Palo Alto. Space will be limited, and we anticipate a full house. If you hope to attend, we encourage you to register as soon as possible here.

Again, we thank you for making the Special Needs Trust seminar such a wonderful and successful event!

REGISTER NOW FOR OUR SPECIAL EVENT

Gilfix and La Poll invites families to attend 13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar

Let’s face it, everyone is worried about the future of government benefits and how individuals with special needs will be cared for. To address this attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix of Gilfix and La Poll Associates are offering a free special needs planning seminar on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. The 13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar will provide valuable information for those who have children or other family members with special needs. There will be two seminar sessions, each lasting two hours.

Both seminars will highlight new legislative developments and opportunities: The ABLE Act and the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act. Special needs trusts are crucial planning tools. Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix will explain how they work and why they are necessary to create for a child with a disability. They will also discuss housing for disabled individuals, the ABLE Act, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act and the possible impact of Trump administration initiatives. Seminar attendees will learn how special needs trusts complement public benefits like Supplemental Security Income and Medi-Cal rather than disturbing eligibility for them.

Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix have decades of experience in the field of special needs planning. Michael Gilfix is a member of the Academy of the Special Needs Planners and author of the book “Special Needs Trust Creation and Management Guide.”

The seminar is being held with the support of nonprofit organizations including Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area, Community Resources for Independent Living, Jewish Family and Children Services, Pacific Autism Center for Education, Parents Helping Parents and others.

Space is limited, so please reserve a spot as soon as possible. To register, call 650-493-8070 or visit www.Gilfix.com.

13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
2pm to 4pm & 6pm to 8pm
Elks Lodge
4249 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, California

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