Legal Concerns for Children with Autism – The Autism Exchange

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<!—Daily Living / Legal —> Legal Concerns for Children with Autism – The Autism Exchange

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Once your child turns 18 they are considered by law to be an adult with full, legal rights under your state law.  Parents frequently do not understand that this means they now can enter into contracts, move away from home, get married, make healthcare decisions for themselves, and vote.  In reality parents are no longer the natural legal guardian.  This is a concern when your child may not have the intellectual capacity to make financial or medical decisions on their own.  There will be many situations you will encounter being asked if you can legally speak on behalf of your young adult, so having guardianship of your child is the best way to be able to protect your child and also avoid being in a powerless situation.  Every state has different types of guardianships so you need to do your research.  Some states have Guardian Advocate which is a type of guardianship for adults with developmental disabilities.  It allows families to continue to do what they have always done for their child.  It only removes the young adult’s rights that they cannot manage on their own such as the right to make medical decisions, their right to manage their own financial affairs, their right to apply for government benefits and the right to decide where they will live.  Every year paperwork will need to be filed with the courts to review your child’s need to live at home so finding a guardianship lawyer will be necessary.  Keep in mind that if you move you will need to redo your guardianship.

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Related Sites

Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Description:  The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the Autistic community, and does so by advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of Autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power while working to educate communities and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include Autistic adults and youths, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends.

Benefits for People with Disabilities
Description:  Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.


Autism and the Law: Cases, Statutes, and Materials (Law Casebook) by Lorri Shealy Unumb and Daniel R. Unumb
Description:  This textbook for law school is the first complete book of formal laws, cases, and topics focusing specifically on autism spectrum disorder.

Managing a Special Needs Trust: A Guide for Trustees by Jackins, B., Shulman, K. Onello H, & Blank, R.
Description:  This guidebook is intended for individuals who are assigned the duty of trustee in a special needs trust. Written by a group of attorneys, this guide will be a valuable source to refer to for coverage on managing trust funds, SSI, medical care, taxes, setting up housing facilities, and much more.


Description:  Explains what guardianship is and his/her responsibilities, the Pennsylvania and Delaware types offered, and alternatives to guardianship. Also gives information regarding Special Needs Trusts and what benefits you can gain from establishing a Trust.

Supplemental Security Income Eligibility Requirements
Description:  A list of questions to determine if your child is eligible for Medicaid’s SSI benefits.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  Law Enforcement Autism Network
Description:  This group is for the law enforcement community to have a place to network with families with autistic children.

Forum/Blog Name:  Obtaining Guardianship for my Autistic Son
Description:  At, a blog by Kristyn Crow regarding her son, age 18.

Consumer Corner

Autism, Discrimination, and the Law: A Quick Guide for Parents, Educators and Employers Kindle Edition by James Graham
Description:  This book primarily focuses on legislation changes regarding the discrimination of people with disabilities. In addition, educational and employment case studies showing moderate adaptations are provided.

Special Needs and Legal Entitlement: The Essential Guide to Getting out of the Maze by John Friel and Melinda Nettleton
Description:  A handbook that thoroughly discusses the legal rights of children as well as young people with disabilities. Detailing the most current information, the guide is a valuable reference for parents of children with special educational needs.

Community Library

Planning for the Future: Supplemental and Special Needs Trusts
Description:  Explains the difference between a Supplemental Trust and a Special Needs Trust, how to establish a Trust, and what a Trustee’s responsibilities would be in either case.

Legal Matters to Consider
Description:  Once your child turns about 18, many legal aspects can change. This article points out key factors to consider, the responsibilities of a legal guardian, the different levels of Special Needs Trusts, and possible government-based benefits your child could qualify for.

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