When do we start planning? 

It is never too early to start planning.  It is important to start making social and educational connections for your child at a young age.  It is also important to think about the financial future of your child, such as setting up a trust. 

The key milestones are:

Age 14

Begin researching adult living, education and supported employment services.  Most agencies have long waiting lists, and the sooner your child’s name is on the list the better.   Transition goals cannot be achieved in one year. Transition planning, services, and activities should be approached as a multi-year process.

Age 15

Your teenager’s IEP must include their post-school outcomes, a statement that describes the course of study needed to help the student reach those outcomes, and statements of specific transition services that are needed by the student.  These statements must address needs in education, employment development, community participation, and adult living.

Age 18

Many changes occur at the age of 18. Individuals may vote, sign contracts, get married, make decisions about medical care and be arrested as an adult.  In some states, parents maintain those rights defined in IDEA for special education students who remain in public education until the age of 21.

Consider Guardianship / Conservatorship

Guardianship and/or conservatorship should be considered for a child that has a disability that causes him/her to be unable to manage his/her own life. After the age of 18, without being the guardian, you cannot legally make decisions for your son or daughter. It may be necessary for a court to make a legal determination that the person is incapacitated and someone should serve as his guardian. While guardianship provides important protection, it is also very restrictive. Basically, it removes all of an individual’s legal rights to manage his/her own life. Under limited guardianship, a guardian is responsible only for specific matters such as money management or medical decisions. Special education service providers or agency personnel may be able to assist parents with this process.

Register for the Draft

Young men must register for the draft at the age of 18 regardless of their level of disability. Registration cards may be mailed directly to the student from the Selective Service Board or may be obtained from the post office.

Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income

Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income, SSI/SSDI, benefits for a child under 18 is based on the income and assets of the parents. Beginning at the age of 18, eligibility for benefits is based on the assets and earnings of the individual student. Students may apply three months before turning 18. Many clients are denied benefits the first time they apply, so parents may need to supply additional documentation and apply a second time. Because eligibility for SSI benefits is based on the assets of the child, it is important that parents plan carefully for the financial security of their son or daughter. Trusts and wills need to be set up by professionals who understand disability law. Your family attorney may not be well versed in this area of the law.

Age 21

The parent’s rights defined in IDEA transfer to the student who is still in public education at the age of 21. Even though many other rights are transfer to the student at 18, special education rights remain with the parent until the student reaches 21 as long as the student is in public education. These include permission for assessment and placement. All rights transfer to the student at 21 unless guardianship has been awarded. IDEA requires that school personnel inform the parent and the student of the transfer one year before it will occur.