With Autism Awareness Month drawing to a close, it is important to think about the future of young people with autism and their transition into adulthood. Many questions may arise about places and environments appropriate and dedicated to foster learning for special needs children.
Anne Marie Mazzu, a trusts and estates partner at the law firm of Davison, Eastman & Muñoz and mother of a child with autism, offers some important information for the transition into adulthood.
At age 14, a case manager and child study team should discuss the transition, and at age 16 an individualized education plan should be developed to include information about the transition. Vocational instruction should also begin at this time and be included in the plan.
Age 18 is an important age when thinking about transition and the future. By the time an autistic child is 18, a guardianship or conservatorship should be in place. This can be applied for 60 to 90 days before the child’s 18th birthday depending on the county. In order to apply for guardianship, two physicians must examine the child. Legal assistant should be sought in order to guide this process. Mazzu explains that parents may have difficulties with medical physicians and pharmacies since in the eyes of the law, 18 year olds have reached the age of majority in the state of New Jersey.
An application should be filed for Social Security benefits, Social Security Disability, and if eligible, Medicaid. If a child is not eligible for Medicaid, parents should consider other health insurance options since the child may not be covered under a parent’s plan any longer after the age of 18. Applications for Social Security cannot be filed until the child reaches 18, but it is a good idea to gather the necessary information to apply. Having information ready for application can shorten the process.
At age 18, parents can apply for a personal identification card from the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles. Although children may have school identification, it is a good idea to have a state picture ID.
Parents may also wish to place a child’s name on a waiting list for residential placement in the state of New Jersey. These residential facilities often have lengthy waiting lists, so regardless of whether the child will enter the facility, placing the name on the list is a good idea.
For male children, parents will receive an application for the military draft, which must be completed regardless of the child’s functioning ability. If a child is not staying in school until the age of 21, parents should apply to adult agencies for vocational and day programs, and seek out other support that may be available.
The June after the child’s 21st birthday, special education programs through the Department of Education will no longer be available. Other agencies, such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Developmental Disabilities can offer assistance.
For more information about autism, transitioning to adulthood, and services and programs available in the state of New Jersey, visit www.autismnj.org.
Autism Awareness Month is a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self determination for all, and assure that each person with autism is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. Visit www.autism-society.org for more information.
Davison, Eastman & Muñoz, P.A., provides clients in New Jersey with outstanding service and expertise in an increasingly wide spectrum of the law. The staff is actively involved with the area it serves and has helped lead the way to make the community a better place to live and conduct business. The Charitable Fund of Davison, Eastman & Muñoz, Inc., is a non-profit dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people by raising funds to directly benefit local individuals and families who are in need or who have suffered financial or personal hardship. For more information, visit www.demlplaw.com.