Planning for the future often looks different and should start early for our children with learning differences and special needs. In this series called ”Planning for the Future & Your Special Needs Child”, I’ll be covering a variety of topics that I hope you will find helpful when planning your child’s future. We will address foundational skills and how to access resources at an early age.
Through almost ten years of working in public school special education, and being a mom of seventeen-year-old twin boys with Level 3 Autism, I’ve learned that Activities of Daily Living (ADL) are vital in accessing the community when our children are no longer school age. ADLs are the skills our children will need to function as independently as possible, no matter what the future holds for them.
When should I start planning for my child’s future?
It’s never too early to plan for the future. Our homeschool curriculum and ”lifestyle of learning” should support our child’s post school goals soon after diagnosis or as early as elementary age. And, because some of our children need longer to acquire even some of the most basic skills, teaching towards independence as much as possible starts at the preschool level. This includes the most important and often overlooked skill of Functional Communication.
The best advice I’ve ever heard from someone working with adults on the Spectrum is that “functional language and safely being able to use a public restroom are the two most important skills we can give a special needs child/adult. Academics are important but are less so if they don’t have these two basics mastered.”
Series topics in the coming months:
- Education: Will my child’s future include attending college, Trade/Vocational School or spending several days each week in the community at a DayHab facility?
- Legal: Do I have all the necessary documents in place such as a will and Special Needs Trust? Will my child need full Guardianship or will Supported Decision Making be enough?
- Living Arrangement: Will they live independently? If so, where? Is Supported (semi-independent) Living, Group Home or Host Home Companion (Foster Care) the best option? Or will they remain at home with family? What supports will they need to access the community?
- Job/Financial: Will my child have a job? Volunteer? Need Employment Assistance or Supported Employment?
- Local & State Services: Who is my Local Authority? What services are available to my child as a minor and what services will be available to support them as an adult? Is there a waiver list that would help support their community-based, behavioral, medical and financial needs? Should I apply for SSI and Medicaid?
These are just a few of the many decisions that need to be made for our children. Some at an early age, others once they reach high school age. I am currently in the process of making some of the more time-sensitive and critical adult transition decisions for my boys. I hope my experiences over the last twelve years will be helpful to you and your family when making some of these difficult but necessary decisions.
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