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Posted September 5th, 2017 by in ABLE Act, Financial Education, Information, PATF, Publications, Resources

Students with Disabilities Deserve Better Financial Education

Written by Hilary Hunt, Financial Education Consultant

Did you learn the basics of money management in school? Do you wish you had learned more?  Most adults report wishing they had learned more about money as a young person rather than through the proverbial “school of hard knocks” as adults. Some Pennsylvania high schools do offer courses in personal finance as part of their regular education curriculum and a small number (about 15 percent) even require these courses for graduation. These courses instill valuable life lessons in students including how to set financial goals, establish a budget, read a paycheck, understand credit, use financial services, and save for the future.

Some might wonder, “Isn’t financial education for students with disabilities the same as it is for other students?” I would suggest that it both is and isn’t. Certainly much of the terminology and fundamental concepts are universal. The differences between a debit card and a credit card do not vary by the user or his or her disability. However, other topics can — and often do — vary significantly. Students with disabilities may, for example, qualify or receive government benefits which often have specific asset limits. An individual who requires physical assistance may rely on a caregiver to handle their day-to-day financial transactions. And, there are special programs for which only individuals with disabilities may qualify such as Home and Community Based Waivers and Social Security Work Incentives.

While there is a wealth of financial education for the general education population, very little has been developed specifically for students with disabilities. As someone who has worked in the field of financial education for nearly two decades, I enjoy working with clients who wish to “fill the gaps” in financial education. When Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation approached me about developing an educator manual to accompany their award-winning Cents and Sensibility: a guide to money management, I was excited to help. Working with a team of educators, we developed a tool teachers can use to better understand and accommodate the diverse financial education needs of their students. Building off of the content in Cents and Sensibility: a guide to money management, we developed teaching strategies that can be used to facilitate student learning of the information in each chapter of the guide.

The educator manual also provides teachers with the tools they need to develop their lessons including essential questions, student objectives, and correlations to the state’s academic standards. Teachers are also given background information to help them understand topics of specific interest to persons with disabilities including the new PA ABLE accounts, Social Security Disability Insurance, and more. I’m excited that the educator manual is now online and available to educators across Pennsylvania and beyond. Students with disabilities deserve better financial education, and now their teachers have a high-quality resource to help offer it.

Want to use the Cents and Sensibility Guide with your students? Learn how!