As any parent of an adolescent knows, a child’s transition into adulthood presents extraordinary opportunities for growth, reflection, and responsibility. The child with special needs faces all of these changes along with the added challenges brought on by his or her individual disability. It is not unusual for a child with special needs to have a specialized set of caregivers and support organizations in place for guidance and direction through these complicated years.
However, at some point in a child’s early adolescence, most families suddenly realize that the services and programs that they rely on to care for the child will soon disappear, These will be replaced by radically different benefits, most of which abruptly come into play once a son or daughter leaves the public education system, which often provides the bulk of the child’s care and daily structure. This may happen at any time between age 18 and 23, depending on the state and the child’s particular needs. Managing this transition from juvenile services to adult care presents one of the greatest difficulties and sources of stress for parents of children with special needs.
Broadly speaking, children with special needs and their families usually deal with five interconnected types of transitions between the ages of 14 and 25:
- Financial support
- Legal and healthcare decision making
- Education to vocational training
- Health insurance coverage
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Harry S. Margolis practices elder law and special needs planning in Massachusetts and is a co-founder of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.
Eric Prichard is a freelance writer who focuses on special needs and elder law. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.