Preparing Your Child for the Future
Dr. William Lybarger, a special needs expert who provides expert witness and executive coaching, wrote about “growing towards separation.” When special needs parents spend so much of their time caring for their child’s every need, it can be difficult to transition them from a life of dependence to independence. Parents spend several years bringing their child through school and therapy, and they almost forget about what happens next, when their child is ready for a residential program or life on their own.
The teenage and young adulthood years are difficult for any child and parent, and it can seem like the obstacles these individuals face are multiplied for a child with special needs.
Oftentimes, the support system that parents and children have relied upon disappears after a certain age. School systems are great sources for education and support, but these programs rarely last past a child’s school years, usually between the ages of 18 and 23.
Financially, many children become eligible for SSI, or Supplemental Security Income. This benefit, available at the age of 18, is about $700 a month, and it includes access to Medicaid. Funds and trusts are also sources of financial support for your child.
For children who are not able to take care of themselves physically or financially, placing them under guardianship is one option for parents. If the court decides the child is unable to provide care for himself, he will be placed under his parent’s guardianship.
Many individuals with disabilities are able to take a full- or part-time job. The IDEA act mandates that transition planning begin at age 14 for a child with disabilities. This step ensures that a child receives education and planning for holding a job in his future. There are many opportunities for education and employment for individuals with disabilities, but it is recommended parents help their children start early and seek legal advice for navigating their options.
When individuals with disabilities are not covered by an employer’s healthcare or they do not have a job, applying for Medicare or Medicaid is one of the best options. Some states even offer supplemental insurance for individuals with disabilities.
Oftentimes, it is not possible for individuals with disabilities to continue living with their parents. Group homes or independent living are two major alternatives. Research these options, as well as support groups for your child as you begin to transition them to an independent lifestyle.
Many cities have organizations to help assist parents as they transition their child to adulthood. Advance LA is an innovative program of The Help Group dedicated to helping teenagers and young adults transition towards independence. This organization is holding a conference for children, parents, and professionals on May 11, 2012 at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
Topics for this conference include:
- Life after school
- The world of work
- College or higher education
- Independent living
Guest speakers include:
▪ Dr. Peter Gerhardt, Director of Education at the McCarton School in New York City, Chairman of the Scientific Council for the Organization of Autism Research and a member of numerous professional advisory boards.
▪ Dr. Amy Griffiths, Director of The Help Group’s Advance LA and co-author of Response to Intervention: Research to Practice
▪ Dr. Richard Guare, Director of the Center for Learning and Attention Disorders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and co-author of Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential
▪ Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Director of The Help Group-UCLA Neuropsychology Program; Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior; Founder and Director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic
▪ Dr. Lars Perner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing at the University of Southern California and author of “Delightful Reflections: Quips, Conjectures and Pontifications”
▪ Dr. Lou Vismara, Policy Consultant, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Board Chair, UC Davis MIND Institute
For individuals who are not in the Los Angeles area, check your local schools and therapeutic organizations for similar events. The need for high-quality services, such as those provided by Advance LA and The Help Group, is growing with our population, and you and your child can make meaningful progress with the help and support from such organizations.