Legal Concerns for Children & Adults with Autism


Legal Concerns for Children & Adults with Autism

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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

Special Needs Answers
Description:  On this site, [the Special Needs Answers team] aims to provide the best information available on the Internet on planning for people with special needs as well as access to a network of planners focusing their practices on special needs planning. Their information is designed to be thorough, up-to-date and easy to understand. The professionals in their network have demonstrated a commitment to assisting those with special needs and their families. And they benefit from the experience and expertise of their peers through our Internet-based practice tools.

Divorce and Children With Autism
Description:  Divorcing parents of a child with autism will do best if they are able to create a co-parenting plan that’s practical and addresses both their child’s current and future needs. This article tries provides guidelines for topics parents may consider, ranging from insurance and trusts to safety and decision making.

Legal Resources
Description:  Overview of the major legal services available to people with autism spectrum disorder.

Estate Planning for Parents of Children with Autism
Description:  As autism caregivers grow older, they begin to think about the future, and how their children will be provided for after they’re gone. When you have a child with autism, not only do you have to financially provide for that child after you’re gone, you must ensure they’ll be well taken care of and that your death does not compromise the child in any way other than the obvious emotional impact losing you will have. Be prepared well in advance and check out this helpful site to get all the information you need from the lawyers who know.

Special Needs Alliance
Description:  The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national, not for profit organization of attorneys dedicated to the practice of disability and public benefits law. Individuals with disabilities, their families and their advisers rely on the SNA to connect them with nearby attorneys who focus their practices in the disability law arena.

Autism After 16
Description:  Autism After 16 is a website that provides information every parent should know who has an autistic child who is approaching 16 years of age. This site provides useful articles on Transitioning, Employment, Housing, Financing, and Health.

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.


Complete Guide to Creating a Special Needs Plan: A Comprehensive Approach Integrating Life, Resource, Financial and Legal Planning to Ensure a Brighter Future for a Person with a Disability by Hal Wright
Description:  An all-inclusive guidebook that starts with making a plan for the extended life of a special needs individual. Covering topics of setting goals, creating a familial support system, housing, jobs, government plans, legal help, finance programs, and special needs trusts, this guide is a much needed source for individuals caring for those with disabilities.

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Autism and the Law: Cases, Statutes, and Materials (Law Casebook) by Lorri Shealy Unumb and Daniel R. Unumb
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Managing a Special Needs Trust: A Guide for Trustees by Jackins, B., Shulman, K. Onello H, & Blank, R.
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Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future by Stephen Elias
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Special Needs Alliance
Description:  Find a Special Needs Trust lawyer in your location.

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.

Special Needs Planning
Description:  This tool provides a list of ten commonly made mistakes by parents in special needs planning.

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

Legal Resources and Considerations for Seniors and Persons with Special Needs
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Wallet Cards for Disabilities
Description:  The Wallet Card Project is a project of The Disability Independence Group, Inc., that was designed in collaboration with The Coral Gables Police Department (CGPD) and The University of Miami Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. The wallet card is a tool to be used by a teenager or an adult with a disability to help them communicate better with law enforcement. This video shows different scenarios for adults on the autism spectrum and how the identification card can be very useful to avoid negative situations with law enforcement.

MetLife Special Needs Calculator
Description:  This calculator guides you through the process of estimating your dependent’s potential income from wages, government benefits or other sources as well as estimating future expenses for housing transportation and day-to-day living in the quality lifestyle you undoubtedly want for them.

Parent Forums/Blogs

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

Forum/Blog Name:  One Autism Mom’s Notes
Description:  This blog discusses guardianship and its very emotional process as to making decisions for the young adult with autism as they lose some of their rights.

Forum/Blog Name:  IEP Forum for Parents
Description:  This group is for sharing information related to 504 plans, IEP’s, exceptional children program, special education, testing, placement, advocacy, legal issues, IDEA, Wright’s Law, FAPE, NCLB and other educational issues.

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.