What You Need to Know Before Your Child with Special Needs Turns 18

What You Need to Know Before Your Child with Special Needs Turns 18

Don’t wait until your child with special needs turns age 18 to begin planning. Becoming a legal adult leads to many changes in available benefits, needs, and your ability to act on your child’s behalf. Here are just a few of the many items for your to-do list.

Government Benefits

If your child receives SSI (or SSDI as a minor on a parent’s work record), then when your child turns 18, the Social Security Administration will automatically review his or her file. The SSA uses a different test to determine benefits eligibility for adults than for minors. The adult test asks whether your child has a lasting physical or mental impairment that “results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity.” Your child could lose benefits or need to appeal a denial because of this different test.

On the bright side, the income requirements are different too. Minors’ eligibility for SSI turns on financial requirements that include their parents’ income and resources. Adults’ eligibility looks only to their own income and resources. Your child may therefore qualify for SSI even if he or she did not as a minor.

Keep in mind, if your child has not received it before, you cannot actually apply for SSI or Medicaid until the first day of the calendar month after he or she turns 18.

Government Requirements

Now is the time to get a state-issued identification card or driver’s license and to make sure you have your child’s Social Security card. You will need these cards to apply for many services. Also, your child may need a bank account to accept SSI checks or employment checks (these should be separate accounts). You also could help your child register to vote and, if he is male, he must submit Selective Service paperwork.

Practical Steps

If your child has intellectual disabilities, we recommend that your child take an adult IQ test between the ages of 17 and 18. The Social Security Administration considers IQ test results in figuring out whether your child qualifies for benefits. Obtaining a test result of 70 or below may make qualifying easier.  Moreover, this testing may help with proving eligibility for the PUNS (see previous blog post on the topic of PUNS).

Legal Steps

If your child needs significant help with activities of daily living, now is the time to start working on the guardianship process. The courts take time to process guardianship petitions, so talk to a lawyer about preparing now. You may instead need to help your child get a power of attorney.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at email@rubinlaw.com or call 866-TO-RUBIN.