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Self-Direction Services for Kids With Special Needs in New York: What You Need to Know

Self-Direction Services for Kids With Special Needs in New York: What You Need to Know

Self-Direction Services (SDS) offers parents of kids with special needs funding for services of their own choosing. 

Self-Direction Services (SDS) is a New York State-funded program for children with special needs. Children who qualify for this program will benefit from it in so many ways. SDS is a way that services can be delivered to a person with a disability in which the parent can choose the supports and services that will work best for her child. Parents are able to decide how and when the services are provided, while also helping to choose the staff and organizations that provide them. The parent will be responsible for helping to manage all supports and services. 

In the SDS program, the state allots a yearly financial budget to every eligible child, with the specific amount based on the child’s DDP2 (Developmental Disabilities Profile) scores. The individual must have a Medicaid Waiver in order to apply for SDS. 

To start the process of applying for Self-Direction Services, speak with your child’s Medicaid Service Coordinator. If you first need to begin the process for a Medicaid Waiver for your child, you can go to the website for The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) at Under “Services and Supports,” click the link to “Front Door” for more information. This site will guide you in the process for both the Medicaid Waiver and SDS. (Or click here for a direct link to the Self-Direction Services area of the site.)

Here are just a few examples of how you can spend some of the money from your SDS budget: 

Community Classes: Your child can take classes after school and on the weekends, and in most cases, you will not have to lay out any money for them. There are some guidelines that the classes need to follow but there is so much available to choose from. From swimming to music to karate--and so much more--you are very likely to find classes that are a good fit for your child. 

Camp: You will be given a camp allowance in your budget. Yes, your child’s summer camp can be paid (or partly paid) for by the state! We all know how long the summer months can seem for our kids, who need their days filled with activities and stimulation. Imagine not having to worry about how to come up with the money to give your child a camp experience.

Babysitters: Another wonderful perk of this program is funding for babysitters. You will actually get to choose the people to watch, work with, and teach your child. Once the person completes some paperwork, he will be paid directly by the state. It is an opportunity for your child to be with someone who wants to be with her and give you piece of mind when you are not at home. 

Other Reimbursements: There are a variety of categories in the budget that allow for reimbursement of certain purchases. A few examples are clothing, transportation, staff training, internet service and a gym membership for your child. This is all money that will be well spent on a deserving child. 

Self-Direction Services is a program that I strongly recommend every parent look into for any  child with special needs. You, as their caregiver, will need to put in some time and effort to make decisions and keep everything organized, but as you see from the opportunities above, it will be very worth the effort. Just remember, your child’s well being and care are the lights at the end of all the paperwork!

RELATED: Find services in your neighborhood for kids wth special needs.

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Dana Greenberg


 Dana Greenberg is a mom of twins living in Manhattan. Dana's site The Autism Club was created as a way to connect moms who have kids with special needs, like her son Jack--who has autism--and offer them a space to tell their stories. You can follow Dana on Twitter @theautismclub or on Facebook @theautismclub.

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