Greg Zibricky knows that feeling of being told your child is autistic. It was 15 years ago when he and his wife, Dawn, found out their then-3-year-old son Aaron was diagnosed with the disorder.
Zibricky knows how overwhelming it can be to keep track of the day-to-day tasks involved with treatment, like medications and therapy appointments and doctor visits. In those situations, parents are thinking about the present physical health of their child, not his or her financial future.
That's why Zibricky, a certified financial adviser for 27 years and president of in Frankfort, has written a book, F.A.M.I.L.Y. Autism Guide: Your Financial Blueprint to Autism, to give parents of autistic children a head start when it comes to financial planning, from the perspective of a father who has been there.
"Families have enough coming at them whether their kids are 3, 13 or 23, that it's very oppressive for them to think, 'I have to see an attorney.' 'I have to see a financial adviser," said Zibricky, a New Lenox resident. "I wanted them to have a real-life guide to kind of give them a jump-start. ... If a family has access to this material, that cuts down the amount of insecurity and the amount of unknowns they have."
Although Zibricky had never written a book ("I wrote a screenplay once. It wasn't very good."), he said he thought it was the best way to distill the knowledge he had developed over the past 10 years he's been doing this type of financial planning for his family, as well as for his Provider Group clients in similar situations. He's taken that information—culled from the individual timelines and plans he's created for dozens of families—and streamlined it for a larger audience, he said.
But the book doesn't simply answer questions like how to handle health insurance or apply for government benefits, it also lays out coping strategies for parents. For instance, the "F" in F.A.M.I.L.Y. stands for "Flexibility," and that chapter deals more with adjusting attitudes and outlook than it does cold, hard financial facts. Zibricky illustrates his ideas in that chapter—and throughout the book—with personal anecdotes of his family's experiences. (The other letters in the title, by the way, stand for Access, Money, Insurance and Yap, which stresses the importance of communication.)
In fact, Zibricky considers his personal perspective to be the book's most valuable asset. Even with his specialized financial know-how and his wife's nursing background, the Zibrickys faced—and still face—many of the same challenges and questions families without their training encounter.
"What shapes the book is the first-hand experience," he said. "As a parent you're approached quite often by folks who say they're familiar with your plight. But unless you talk to another parent, the reality is that's not the case."
"Here's a family that had the benefits of a mother who was a nurse, a mother ... who was active in the disability community before Aaron was diagnosed," he added. "And you know, here's the father who's a certified financial planner. ... If you're going to have two parents who could help, we were the ones, and we recognized that. And we find that to be powerful, because it's coming from the point of view that we had advantages. And there are other families who didn't have a medical background, didn't have a financial background, and had to deal with the same stuff we did, and even (with our advantages), it's hard enough."
The next step for Zibricky is to start to promote the book, which is on sale at outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In fact, he's already using social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to spread the word.
As the book hits shelves, Aaron is just turning 19 and has graduated high school. It's a bit of synchronicity that isn't lost on Zibricky.
"The last 10 years have been everything," he said. "They've been trying, frustrating, exciting. But in a sense, we're just getting started."
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