For parents of a child with a disability, preparing for your child’s transition to adulthood and independent living involves careful planning. All special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act end after your child turns 21 or graduates from high school with a regular diploma. In New York, specifically, services end when your child is awarded a Regents or local diploma or by aging out–on June 30th of the school year that your child turns 21. You and your child need to be prepared for this precipitous end of services. Littman Krooks can help.
A transition plan reflects the vision of both you and your child regarding what sort of life he or she will lead as an adult. In recent decades, it has become much easier for adults with developmental disabilities to live with a great degree of independence and participation in community life. Many students with disabilities go on to college. However, each important element of an independent life will require careful planning. You and your child should consider what kind of residence, employment and social life would be appropriate. If you believe your child will require a residential placement or group home, you must begin planning early.
When Your Child Turns 15
Transition planning must begin the year your child turns 15 or earlier for students with severe developmental disabilities, and it should be a major focus of the high school and often middle school experience. Parents should work closely with their child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) team to ensure that school resources are being used appropriately to prepare the child for life as an adult. Post secondary goals must be specific and measurable.
Think carefully about whether your child will be able to make independent financial, legal and medical decisions as an adult. If you will need to make some of these decisions on your child’s behalf, then you should initiate guardianship proceedings a year or more in advance of the child’s eighteenth birthday. If your child has capacity to take care of himself or herself and does not require a guardianship, you should have your child exercise a power of attorney, health care proxy and living will, to make sure you can have access to your child’s educational and health records and can assist with decisions, particularly in case of an emergency. Once your child turns 18, you will not be able to have access to his or health records and may have difficulty obtaining educational record or participating in educational decisions, without a power of attorney or other appropriate documentation.
Joining the Workforce
If a student with a disability aspires to join the workforce, consideration should be given to whether supported employment options are appropriate. School resources, such as skills testing, can be used to determine your child’s potential proficiency. You should familiarize yourself with government agencies and community resources that help people with disabilities train for the workforce. In New York State, ACCES/VR, a vocational rehabilitation agency which is part of the NYS Education Department, provides funding and supports for certain college or vocational educational programs as well as employment supports. Community organizations exist to help people with special needs in every aspect of the transition to adulthood, including housing, transportation and social programs.
If your child will be attending college or other post-secondary school, be sure that your child is prepared for the challenges of relative independence and secures from the school any needed accommodations or services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Well before graduation from high school, ask the CSE to include goals on your child’s IEP for self advocacy and independent living skills.
Our special needs planning attorneys and special education attorneys are here to help. Contact us for a consultation about how we can help your family create and carry out a plan for your child’s success.