[The following is a summary of the talks that my husband attended at the Autism New Jersey Transition Conference 2017. I sent him to the financial planning talks because he is a numbers and legalese guy, as in voluntarily likes them, and he’s such a good egg about filling out never ending paperwork. Thank you, Harried One. I appreciate your effort!]
Autism NJ conference May 2017, Woodbridge.
The focus of this conference was transitioning to adulthood, and it forced us to think about what happens as A grows up.
There was a big blank spot in my understanding. I knew that at 21 he ages out of the school system and into adult care, but how that happens was a big mystery.
First, when he turns 18, he will be an independent adult. We will have to petition a court so we can be appointed his guardians. The court will appoint its own psychologist to see that guardianship is warranted. Usually this is a formality but the lawyer giving this talk did say there were cases where the child contested, and the parents had to prove he was incapable of making either financial or medical decisions.
Second, he will go on SSI and Medicaid and (this is important) he should have no assets to his name. The lawyer giving the money talk warned us that sometimes grandparents may have put some funds in the child’s name, perhaps at birth, and it shows up in a computer search and suddenly Social Security and Medicaid refuse support. There is a special vehicle called a Special Needs Trust. Any money needs to be in this trust. Then it can be used for whatever the trustee decides.
The final talk I went to was by a Rutgers academic, talking about adult care. Whereas people working with developmentally disabled children have to have the equivalent of Masters degrees, those working with adults need only have a high school diploma. The adult care places have trouble hiring and retaining staff. The strategies for working with adults have not been investigated as thoroughly as those for children, so you often get plans developed for kids being used for adults: doing puzzles for skittles, etc. Research on adult learning strategies is beginning, but has a long way to go.
We have all been to conferences where the speakers simply read the bullet points off their powerpoint slides. This was not that. The speakers were obviously experts in their fields and spoke well. I still look to A turning 18 with trepidation, but with perhaps a little more knowledge of what it entails.
The Transition from Special Education to Adult Services.
Marie Fischer Esq. and Paul Prior Esq., Hinkle, Fingles, Prior & Fischer
Guardianship and Estate Planning.
Adam Wilson, Esq. Hinkle, Fingles, Prior & Fischer