The 18th birthday is a milestone – the day you are finally an adult! You get to make your own decisions, Mom and Dad can no longer tell you what to do. You can rent an apartment on your own. You can vote.
These are things kids think about and get excited about when the are turning 18. But when your child has a disability that makes it difficult or impossible for them to take on adulthood by themselves, turning 18 means a vastly different set of milestones. For the parent, your child’s 18th birthday means that the doctor can no longer give you medical information about your child. It means you can no longer tell the doctor how to treat your child. It means the school can no longer make you a part of ARD meetings, or tell you how your child is doing in school.
These are just a few of the changes that come when a child turns 18. For a child that needs help, parents are severely restricted in how they can be involved in their child’s life – unless they have planned ahead.
The time to prepare is when your child is 17. Here are 3 things you should do before your child turns 18.
1. Talk to your child’s doctor about whether he or she will qualify guardianship. Guardianship (also known as conservatorship in some states) involves a court determination, based primarily on a doctor’s assessment, that an individual is unable to care for themselves and needs a person appointed to act on their behalf and manage their affairs.
2. Talk to an attorney. Once your child’s doctor has indicated whether your child is a candidate for guardianship, you need to start preparing. if guardianship is the apprpriate option, the attorney will begin preparing to petition the court. If guardianship is not an option, the attorney will talk to you about a variety of ways to ensure that you continue to have access to medical and educational information about your child so that you can appropriately help your child with their new adult responsibilities.
3. Prepare for an SSI application. Supplemental security benefits are a need based benefit which also comes with medicaid benefits. At age 18, only the child’s income and assetts are considered for eligibility, so a child who was not eligible for benefits because the family income was too high, will probably be eligible at 18 if they otherwise meet the disability requirements. However, if the child has property or money worth more than $2000, they will not be eligible. But there are ways to save this money for the use of the child and still have the child be eligible for SSI. Talk to an attorney BEFORE you apply for SSI to see what you can do.