There are many resources available for children with special needs or disabilities. Through the local school district, parents can often get therapies, aides, and tutors provided. While this is great for school age children, a problem arises when that child turns 21 and ages out of the school system, no longer able to receive these services. This leaves many parents at a loss, unsure where to turn for help or what to do for their child. Suddenly all of the help and structure that their child has had throughout their life is gone, and navigating this new season of life can be scary and overwhelming. The good news is, there are resources and help available for adults with special needs – you just have to know where to look.
Here are some things to do and consider when your special needs child turns 21:
1. Apply for Social Security and Medicaid
The amount of help you can receive from the government varies from state to state and can depend on the disability, but it is always a good idea to apply and see what sort of support is available for your child. This is a good place to start as you begin exploring options and resources.
2. Consider Guardianship
Depending on your child’s needs and their ability to make adult decisions for themselves such as financial and personal decisions, you may consider going through the court to become your child’s legal guardian after they become a legal adult. This enables you, or whoever you choose to become legal guardian, to help make important decisions regarding medical care, finances, housing, and more.
3. Decide Where Your Child Will Live
One big question to consider is where your child with special needs should live once they are technically no longer a child after turning 21. Some options available are assisted living or independent living with a friend or roommate who can help out and provide care and/or a professional caretaker.Take into account your child’s specific needs and abilities as you make this important decision.
4. Find the Care Your Child Needs
As your child transitions to adulthood, the level and type of care they need may change. In some cases it is best for the child to stay under the care of their parents, but because in many cases parents will predecease their children, this is not always an ideal situation. To enhance your child’s sense of independence, it can be beneficial to transfer care to a personal care professional or look into independent or assisted living.
5. Consider a Service or Therapy Pet
Service and therapy animals can be beneficial for people with various disabilities. These animals are trained based on the specific needs of an individual and are able to perform tasks such as alerting a diabetic owner to a drop in blood sugar, assisting with daily tasks for a physically disabled person, or providing emotional support for someone with autism or PTSD. They can provide more independence and autonomy for some people, which can help your child with the transition to adulthood.
6. Look into Higher Education
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children are entitled to free and appropriate public education by federal law, and schools must provide them with an education through 12th grade. After they age out of the school system, however, they may still choose to pursue higher education. Many colleges have programs for special needs students. If obtaining a higher level of education is something of interest to your child, there are multiple colleges and universities with programs for students with special needs.
7. Find Scholarships and Grants
If attending a college or university is something your child is considering, look into scholarships and grants that are available for students with special needs. There are even some scholarships available for people with specific disabilities.