Turning 18 Checklist

The 18th birthday of an individual with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities is a huge milestone. It marks one’s official transition into adulthood from a legal perspective. This is exciting in many ways, yet it carries new challenges, especially for those who are severely impacted by their disability. Sometimes these challenges can be overwhelming, but a little preparation and organization can really ease this process.

Review the “Turning 18 Checklist” below for suggestions on preparing for and managing life as a legal adult.

Things to Do Before Turning 18

  • Reassess Your IEP

    • If you or your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), begin gearing education goals towards the functional life skills of adulthood.
  • Get Your School District Involved

    • Check with your school district about any referrals or documents they can provide to maximize available support and service options as individuals “age out” of school.
  • Know Your Legal Rights

    • Research the pros and cons of guardianship as well as alternative options such as supported decision-making, a durable power of attorney, naming a representative payee for government benefits, maintaining a joint bank account, medical power of attorney, etc. It is important to understand that once an individual turns 18, they are a legal adult and have full rights over his or her life. If you are a parent, you will no longer have any legal standing over their decisions, including medical care if they end up in an emergency room. Whatever path you take, be sure it is established before your loved one turns 18.
  • Understand the Medicaid Waiver

    • Before applying with your state’s DD agency, request to understand the Medicaid waiver eligibility criteria as well as what waivers your state offers. Once you understand the eligibility requirements and waiver options, apply for a waiver as waitlists are often long, and you will likely not get immediate comprehensive supports.
  • Write a Letter of Intent

    • As a parent or guardian, it is imperative that you write a letter of intent, which explains your loved one’s abilities, support needs, preferred and necessary services, current and future benefits, etc. as well as your wishes for his or her future and who will support them either legally and/or as natural supports.


Things to Do After Turning 18

  • Apply for SSI

    • Make sure the applicant does not have more than $2,000 in assets (excluding primary residence), and be sure to apply for SSI. This benefit may be available to some individuals before the age of 18 if his or her family is low income or they live in an out-of-home residential setting.
  • Apply for SSDI

    • If an individual has ever been a dependent of a person who was employed for a set period of time and paid Social Security taxes or is currently receiving Social Security benefits, that individual can apply for SSDI. Benefits are higher than SSI and income restrictions are less stringent.
  • Get on a Waitlist for Housing

    • Contact your Public Housing Agency and either apply for an affordable housing voucher to be added to a waitlist, or get on a list or inquire as to when your waitlist will open up. Some states have running waitlists that remain open, others do not.
  • Consider Registering for the Draft

    • Males may consider registering for the draft as it helps them access some government benefits in the future: http://www.sss.gov/
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