Although Bart Stevens is not officially an educator, his life’s work involves a unique form of teaching,
Stevens, of Scottsdale, is recognized as a pioneer in the field of Special Needs Planning, meaning he provides guidance to families of children with mental disabilities or syndromes such as autism or Down syndrome.
He guides families through financial, legal, and insurance issues they need to know for their child’s future to be secure. He helps parents set-up special trusts and make arrangements for their loved ones in case they die before their child does.
The people he helps range from infants to 60-year-olds. Many of the parents have two or more children with special needs.
“I could not tell you of another person in the United States doing what I’m doing,” said Stevens, who has lectured extensively throughout the country.
Stevens has now written a new book, “The ABC’s of Special Needs Planning Made Easy,” that gives parents simple steps to set-up a special needs trust for their child. The book explains how to write a letter of intent about a child’s care so there are no unanswered questions in case of a parent’s sudden death.
He describes himself as “kind of like a catalyst, or a host of the whole planning process.”
Stevens, 55, founded his Phoenix business in 1993. Before that, he spent 20 years in financial planning and sold insurance. He finds this new line of work endlessly gratifying.
“Not that I was ashamed of selling any of those products…I wanted to have a different rapport with the families,” he said. “I still work with the families, lawyers, the financial advisors. I bring them in and work with them hand-in-hand.”
The Banahan family of Phoenix hired Stevens three years ago to help plan the future of 12-year-old Julia, a seventh-grader at Madison Meadows Middle School, who has Down syndrome.
“He knows how to take a sensitive topic and make sense of it,” said Julia’s father, Jim Banahan.
Stevens has been talking about his ABC’s book for the past month, “running seven days a week, at 120 miles an hour” to spread the word about Special Needs Planning.
He’s happy to report that fewer families are in denial about their children with special needs. His own field is also growing as more people are becoming aware of Special Needs Planning.
“Moms and dads need to look at their children as objectively as possible and make decisions that are in the best interest of their child,” Steven said.
“People with special needs are productive citizens. They’re no different that you and I, they just happen to have a disability or a syndrome.”