The Mississippi ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) program is a blessing to parents like Heather Bryan.
Heather beams with pride as the loving mom of twin 12-year-old twin girls, Ashley and Katie Bryan. The twins are taking different journeys in life as they approach their teen-age years growing up in Ridgeland.
Ashley is a vibrant seventh grader at a private school in Jackson. She’s making good grades, and is staying on track towards college and a career.
Meanwhile, Katie has struggled with an intellectual disability since she was a newborn. Katie attended public school as a special education student for four years before starting a specialized school where teachers help children with disabilities realize their academic and creative abilities.
Katie’s learning skills are at the kindergarten level now, her mom says. “She doesn’t talk at all at school.’’ Usually, there are six or seven children in her classes. She’s more talkative at home. Heather got the opportunity to work closely with Katie when her Central Mississippi school closed for nine weeks in the Spring during the COVID-19 pandemic. “She had assignments at home.’’ Katie often copies words in her books and her mom reports her handwriting is good. She likes painting, too.
Looking to years ahead, Heather and her husband, Steve Bryan, want to ensure that Katie’s future is secure financially. The Bryans are among over 100 families enrolled in the Mississippi ABLE program. Overseen by a nine-member Board and administered by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS), the program is especially designed to assist eligible Mississippians with disabilities to save money without fear of losing federal benefits.
ABLE accounts are available to individuals with significant disabilities who acquired their disability before the age of 26. Mississippi started its program in 2019.
“The Bryans are a great example of why the ABLE program was established and why it is so significant to parents of children with disabilities,” said Rick Courtney, Chairman of the Mississippi ABLE Board. “Parents of all children should be able to save for them, regardless of the level of their abilities.”
“We truly believe this program will help in providing financial freedom to so many we serve,’’ said Chris Howard, MDRS executive director and vice chair of the ABLE Board. “It is a game-changer for so many families.”
The ABLE account can be used for daily transactions as well as long-term savings. Account assets will grow income tax free and savings do not impact public benefits.
With this account, Heather and Steve Bryan hope to save up to $100,000. Heather learned of the ABLE account from a friend with a special needs child.
Heather, 52, likes the ABLE account because it would pay for living expenses and care for her daughter, Katie, for many years to come. It eliminates the “worry when I am gone.’’ Without an ABLE account at her disposal, “I can’t save for Katie the same way I can save for her sister.’’
Steve Bryan is delighted to be signed up and says having an ABLE account for Katie gives him peace of mind. “It is a means to help Katie in the future, which is the highest priority. The ABLE account will assist in that objective.’’
As a seventh grader, Ashley doesn’t know the details regarding the ABLE program. But she’s sure her love for her twin sister, Katie, runs deep. The Bryan sisters do disagree at times, but there’s not much sibling rivalry.
“Sometimes I try to do things with my sister and she doesn’t understand what to do, but when she does, I enjoy our time together so much,’’ Ashley says. “I wish we could be together at the same school.’’
Katie and Ashley Bryan are twin girls who don’t look alike. But they look out for one another. Says Mom Heather Bryan: “Katie won’t ever be able to live on her own. I expect she will always live with me, and I imagine her sister will one day step into my role and help take care of her. I don’t know who else would, but now we have some peace of mind knowing we can save money for both our girls.”
For more information about Mississippi’s ABLE program or to sign up online, go to www.mississippiable.com or call 1-888-609-3469.