Category Archives: Autism


New, tax-deductible savings plan for families of children with disabilities will launch this month

LINCOLN — When her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with severe autism, one of Cathy Martinez’s first thoughts was who would care for Jacob when she and her husband are gone.

Soon, she said, she will get some help with that dilemma.

On June 30, the Nebraska Treasurer’s Office will launch a new, tax-deductible savings plan for families of children with disabilities.

The Enable Savings Plan is one of the first established in the country. It will allow families to set aside funds in a tax-free savings account for the future care of a loved one without jeopardizing that person’s Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

By federal law, if a person had more than $2,000 in assets, they would lose such benefits, Martinez said, forcing disabled adults into poverty so they could continue to qualify for services.

Her family was forced into bankruptcy after spending $300,000 of their own money for the initial care for Jacob, now 13. In 1994, state law was changed to require insurance coverage of autism services.

Martinez and other advocates said Wednesday that the Enable Savings Plan will allow families the opportunity to set aside funds — without risking penalties — for the future care of their children or to allow them to get educations or buy or rent homes.

“This is all about greater independence,” said Brandon Verzal of Lincoln, whose daughter was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at a day care center when the family lived in Texas.

Martinez said Jacob is nonverbal and probably won’t be able to work as an adult. But the savings in his account could pay for life in a group home or with one of his siblings, she said.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg urged Nebraskans to spread the word about the Enable program, which is similar to savings plans already offered to cover college expenses.

State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln sponsored the 2015 bill that authorized the program.

Under the terms of the program, if the state of residence pays for an account owner’s medical costs incurred after an account is opened, the state will receive reimbursement of the balance of an account upon the account owner’s death.

For more information, call the Treasurer’s Office at 402-471-2455 or visit the


NE announces start of enable accounts

Nebraska announces start of Enable accounts

Cathy Martinez said her family spent more than $300,000 out of pocket over a four-year period on treatments and services for her severely autistic son, and she worried that the financial resources available to him in adulthood, such as Medicaid and Social Security disability payments, wouldn’t come close to covering his living and care expenses.

Brandon Verzal, whose daughter sustained a traumatic brain injury at the hands of a daycare provider when she was 14 months old, said, “I don’t think there’s anything I lose more sleep over,” than imagining what will happen to his daughter when shes 20 or 30 or 40 years old.”

Martinez and Verzal both will have another option by the end of the month.

Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg announced Wednesday that the state’s first Enable Savings Plan will be available June 30.

The Legislature last year passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience law, which authorized the accounts to allow children and adults with qualifying disabilities in Nebraska to save and invest money without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. Federal legislation in 2014 paved the way for such accounts.

Up until now, adults with disabilities receiving government benefits could have no more than $2,000 in a savings account.

The Enable accounts are similar to 529 accounts for education savings. Money is contributed on an after-tax basis and then grows tax free. Distributions are tax free as long as they are used for qualifying expenses.

Participants can save as much as $100,000 without losing eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

First National Bank of Nebraska is the program manager for the accounts, and David Cota, an executive vice president at the bank, said it has had considerable interest in the accounts, not just in Nebraska but nationally.

“We believe signups are going to be meaningful and significant,” Cota said.

Nebraska is the third state, after Ohio and Tennessee, to offer the accounts.

To learn more about Enable accounts, go to:


CDC Announces Autism Prevalence Rates Remain the Same

2016 CDC Incidence Report

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the incidence of autism among eight year olds in the United States remains 1 out of 68 children. This CDC report occurs every two years.

We have three key messages about today’s report:

  • Each person with autism deserves a life full of dignity, value and respect. Their lives should allow them to pursue options that maximize their quality of life and value to society.
  • It is important to realize these statistics represent real people who contribute to society.
  • It is important to understand autism through research, but just as important to be there for the over 3 million Americans who live with autism today.

Additional information on this announcement can be found at: http://www.autism­­the­news/autism­prevalence­rates/

For more information on the Study methodology go to:


National Student Speech Language Hearing Association

The students of UNO’s National Student Speech Language Hearing Association are committed to helping families affected by autism.  For the second year, they are holding a fundraiser to benefit the Autism Society of Nebraska.  UNO’s Got Talent is coming up April 15th with talent performers, raffle prizes, food and more.

Donate to UNO NSSLHA’s fundraiser here


UNO's Got Talent

UNO’s Got Talent Show – Sign Up by April 1st!

Friday, April 15th 7 pm

UNO’s Got Talent
The University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association is hosting the second annual UNO’s Got Talent!

Only UNO students can participate with a talent to earn cash prizes, but anyone can attend to watch and support a great cause! A free will donation (suggested $5) will be taken at the door for entrance, with an option to donate an extra suggested $1 for pizza and pop!

All proceeds from the event will go directly towards the Autism Society of Nebraska to benefit those families in Nebraska affected by autism. If you are unable to attend the event, please consider donating at the link provided. All donations are greatly appreciated!

Donate to ASN at

Apple Puzzle Vector Illustration

Dan Archwamety Post-secondary Education Scholarship

A scholarship of up to $500 is available this year for an individual with a diagnosis of
ASD. The scholarship must be used toward completing an accredited post-secondary
course of study (educational or vocational).  The Scholarship will be awarded at the ASD State Conference on Thursday April 7, 2016.

More details on the scholarship and the 2016 Dan Archwamety Scholarship Form.  All scholarship applications must be postmarked no later than March 18, 2016.