Autism, Preparing for Adulthood

Happy New Year! We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and that everybody is looking forward to a great 2008!

2008 is a big year for Lucas. He turns eighteen years old this year, and that makes him an adult in the eyes of the law. With autism, preparing for adulthood means taking care of certain things.

Autism, Preparing for Adulthood: Draft Registration

For instance, we have to register Lucas for the draft. Go figure! But we checked the form (you can get it at any U.S. Post Office), and it states that, "Handicapped physically or mentally, able to function in public with or without assistance" must register. So that's one thing we need to take care of.

Autism, Preparing for Adulthood: Guardianship

With autism, preparing for adulthood also means petitioning the court for guardianship of Lucas.

You see, when a child is young, parents or other caregivers are automatically considered guardians. The law recognizes that a child needs someone to look out for them, so it's kind of an automatic thing that a child and their "stuff" are under the care of someone, usually a parent.

The law says - But when that child turns eighteen, the law and the courts must say, "Okay this person is an adult now, and they get to make their own decisions, have control of their own lives, money, living arrangements, property, etc."

This applies to ALL people, not just those without a disability. Many people with disabilities are perfectly able to run their own lives. They certainly don't need someone watching over them, their money or their decisions.

Some people need help - But what about an autistic adult like Lucas, who cannot make decisions about basic things or (at this point) manage simple, everyday tasks, like budgetting, finding a job, or figuring out how to get somewhere?

In the case of someone with autism, preparing for adulthood can involve the appointment of a Guardian, which in Lucas' case, will be one or both of his parents. So we must petition the Court for "guardianship" of Lucas, which will allow us to continue to be responsible for him and his life.

Different rules for different states - States set up their own rules for how guardianship is achieved, so it can vary depending on where you live.

Here in Delaware, the "Code" indicates that only one person can be Lucas' guardian. But as it turns out, both of us are allowed to be guardians, they just don't "advertise" it!

Professional help - We've been told that if we don't hire an (expensive) attorney, the court will appoint an "advocate" for Lucas and charge us for it. Basically, this means that either way, we're going to have to pay a LOT of money for this process.

It's ironic that for 12 years this state has assigned Lucas to a program for severely disabled students, but all of the sudden they need to "decide" at our expense if he's disabled enough to need a guardian!

I have to wonder why the state isn't willing to accept the words of twelve years of their own teachers, psychologists, school administrators, etc.

Check with the ARC - We met with an attorney who's been a member of the ARC of Delaware for years, and he explained that in order to petition the court for guardianship of Lucas, we would need to get the following:

  • A letter from Lucas' doctor stating a diagnosis.
  • A letter from any other immediate family members (in Lucas' case, a letter from his brother Robert), saying that the other family members don't have any problems with Lucas having us as guardians.
  • A "Petition for Guardianship" filled out.

All these letters cannot be dated more than 2 months before the guardianship hearing, either. (Like so much else with autism, preparing for adulthood involves attention to detail, even with guardianship!)

We've just started working on this, so I'll bring things up to date as they develop...

Autism, Preparing for Adulthood: Autism and Oral Surgery

Wisdom teeth usually make an appearance in the late teen years. And like so many other people, Lucas' wisdom teeth aren't coming in straight.

Combining autism and oral surgery is something else that takes careful planning when parenting an autistic child.

As you can see, with autism, preparing for adulthood involves a lot of things that parents will have to keep up with.

Then, once Lucas has turned eighteen, we'll need visit the Social Security office to find out if he's eligible for any types of benefits.

It's always something, but right now, we'll work on getting him registered with Selective Service, through his guardianship hearing and through his oral surgery. Then we'll go from there on this journey of taking autism into adulthood.

See previous articles on autism to the left, next to our current article.

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