“Spending Down” Stimulus Money: Ideas for DD Group Home Managers and Case Managers

Young man swinging high in saucer-shaped swing.

Stimulus checks coming to adults in the developmental disability system pose an interesting dilemma, given the $2,000 asset limit.  Clients accustomed to a monthly fun budget low in the double digits suddenly have acquired over $3,000.  It’s a tremendous opportunity to make purchases with long-term impact!

We may face more lockdowns and quarantines in the months ahead – that’s just the hard reality.  Meeting expensive needs and insulating clients from boredom during future restrictions are worthwhile investments that ultimately benefit staff as well. More recreation options, upgraded tech, and improved accessibility collectively contribute to happier homes! Let’s explore spending ideas.

Clients can exceed the $2,000 asset limit without losing benefits by depositing savings into an ABLE account. If your client does not have an ABLE account, you can still use stimulus money to impact the future in a positive way. Create an accessible space, meet a communication challenge, or build a well-supplied learning or sensory environment specific to a client’s need.

If you have a gamer, is his gaming system outdated? Are games increasingly difficult to find? Time for a new system. If you have a wanna-be gamer, consider buying an adapted controller that will allow them to play. Both Nintendo Switch and Xbox have adapted gaming options. Do you have someone with no or limited spoken language who needs updated communication support? A would-be cook who needs adapted tools for the kitchen? Addressing these needs can be pricey in normal times, so buy ‘em now!

Is there a sheltered area in the yard accessible to a client using a wheelchair, or an accessible picnic table he can use? Is there a raised garden for your gardener, or an adult-sized water-sand table or inflatable water tray for your sensory seeker? When outings are forbidden due to a community outbreak, an accessible yard rich in activity options will be important.

When considering purchases, remember rules and safety.  Consult administrators about any structures for the yard. Check with the client’s physical or occupational therapist when assessing fun mobility or comfy-seating options. If no therapist is involved, check with your nursing team. Your local Parks & Rec or school can provide leads on adaptive playground equipment suppliers. Commercial-grade equipment is far too expensive for a client to buy under normal circumstances, but with stimulus funds, your client could still be using that quality swing 15 years from now! If you do decide to purchase outdoor playground equipment, remember to include cost of installation by a licensed and insured contractor.

Don’t let small hurdles keep you from dreaming big. Your client has received a substantial chunk of change and with it, an extremely rare opportunity – utilize the temporary windfall to make nice things happen. ♥

Below is a list of sources selling quality items for people with disabilities.  The list does not include dealers of high-tech communication devices or communication apps. Those tools are best matched to your client with the help of a speech-language pathologist, and then trialed through a vendor or through MonTECH.

As you browse, remember MonTECH can help. Use MonTECH to explore accessible gaming options, mobility equipment, communication devices and supports, and tools for eating and cooking. Borrow our equipment for free, and take advantage of free 1:1 help with Michelle or Marlena.  Schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with Michelle if you live in the western half of Montana (406-243-5486, michelle.allen@mso.umt.edu) or Marlena if you’re near or east of Billings (406-657-2089, Marlena.lanini@mso.umt.edu).

AbleNet Switch-controlled toys (activating a toy with a button), simple communication devices, etc.  MonTECH has examples of many of these items you can try for free.

Accessible Gardens Raised gardening products

Belsen Nice wheelchair-accessible picnic tables including smaller, fun octagonal tables

eSpecial Needs Mostly pediatric, but lots of categories to shop here including the popular PPod seating system in an adult size (they include a questionnaire to help determine safety and fit). Trikes, lightweight and foldable Convaid strollers for adults, tools for eating, dressing, etc.

Home Depot Wheel-chair accessible gazebos and shade structures.

Lakeshore Learning tools and art supplies of excellent, classroom-level quality.  Learning activities that meet skill levels of preschool and up and can stand hard use!

Learning, Sight & Sound Made Easier Daily living products for those with low vision, blindness, or impaired hearing.  Good products for house staff struggling with these issues as well!

RehabMart Many of the products are for more clinical or institutional settings, but you can find a range of specialty swings. The page says ‘pediatric,’ but when you click on individual swings, you’ll see adult sizes.
Southpaw High quality, durable products for sensory needs.  PRICEY, but built for the therapy environment so their products are sturdy. Some folks who seek sensory input really like the Body Sox.

Special Needs Toys Emphasis on sensory needs.