By Dara M. Hensel, Estate Planning Paralegal
Having a special needs child has many challenges. One of the toughest challenges faced by many parents is knowing how to best care for their special needs child as they reach adulthood. There are many areas that need consideration when planning for the transition of a special needs child to adulthood. Let’s take a look at some of these areas.
During childhood, the public education system provides for the bulk of the care, structure, and services that a special needs child requires. However, once they are out of public education, this support and service abruptly come to an end. If parents don’t plan for this transition, it can be difficult for the child and the family. That is why the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that at age 14, the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) contain a plan with steps that will be taken to help the special needs student acquire skills that are necessary to transition from school to the workforce. Schools are required to monitor progress of the students as they acquire the specific skills.
It is important for parents to understand their child’s rights and for parents of children with special needs to be advocates for their child as they turn 14 and enter this time of transition.
Special needs individuals if trained in skills specific to the workforce can find ways to have a job. For example, the local Walmart hired a young lady who has special needs to work as a cashier. The young lady while in school had an IEP. From the time the young lady was in elementary school, part of her IEP include life skills goals. These goals allowed her to learn necessary skills to get and keep a job as a cashier.
Beyond preparing your child early for the workforce, it is helpful to research companies that hire people with special needs and determine the types of skills they will need to succeed. Then, parents or other caregivers, should seek out ways to develop those necessary skills in their child. The key to employment is being prepared to help your child both during and after school. Be patient with the process. Sometimes it takes time for a special needs adult to get hired. Many special needs people do not work because they are scared that they may lose benefits if they work.
Working can be a great way for special needs adults to earn some additional income. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are limits on the amount of money a special needs person can earn without affecting Social Security Insurance (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Once a child reaches 18, these benefits are based on his or her own assets. Other ways to protect the assets of your special needs child is by creating a first or third-party trust. This way, your special needs child can draw benefits while also having assets.
If you are the parent of a special needs child, it is important to begin planning early for the future of your child. Don’t wait until your child is 18. The public education system can be a great resource but you will need to do some planning on your own. The good news is there are organizations that can help you and your child find the right employment opportunities to match their skills. An elder law attorney who specializes in adults with special needs can be very helpful in planning for the financial future of your child with special needs.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.