Know Your Rights: A Guide for Special Needs Parents and Children

special needs parents

There are plenty of laws in place to protect your child, but navigating those special accommodations can be hard. This is especially true when you’re not sure what protections your child has access to in the first place.

If this sounds familiar, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few key laws and resources special needs parents should know about. 

Educational Resources

For most parents with young special needs children, school is the most pressing concern. There are a few legal protections your child will have as they approach schooling age.

Their main protections include the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These acts require schools to provide free and appropriate public education for all students. They also require accommodations for special needs students.

In essence, you should expect a school to do an evaluation of your child’s needs. They should then develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to support your child. 

As a parent, you should feel free to request copies of your child’s IEP. You should also stay in communication with your child’s teachers. Don’t hesitate to also reach out to a lawyer if a school refuses to offer educational services for your child.

Guardianship Decisions

One of the worst struggles of being a special needs parent is worrying about your child’s welfare once you’re gone.

What will become of your minor child if something happens to you? If you have any minor children, it’s important to name a legal guardian for them. You’ll need to visit a special needs lawyer website and complete the required documentation to do this.

What will become of your child after they’ve turned 18? Even after your child is an adult in the eyes of the law, they may still need someone to help make medical and financial decisions on their behalf. At this point, you can appoint yourself as their legal guardian advocate and nominate successor guardians.

In addition to the tips above, you can also create a Letter of Intent or a Care Plan for your child. These documents aren’t binding, but they contain crucial information about your child’s needs for future caregivers. They can also outline special routines, your child’s medical history, and any of their behavioral preferences.

Financial Resources

Beyond special needs parenting and guardianship decisions, there are a few things you can do to be sure that your child has the financial support they’ll need throughout their lives.

First and foremost, be sure your child applies for SSI benefits as soon as they turn 18.

Next, make sure to set up a special needs trust for your child. This ensures that your child will remain eligible for government programs like SSI and Medicaid, as leaving money for them via an inheritance can disqualify your child from certain benefits. It also allows you to leave enough financial resources for your child after your passing.

Tips for Special Needs Parents

Special needs parents sometimes have a tough time protecting and advocating for their kids, but it’s important to remember that you’re not doing it alone. All of the laws and resources we’ve mentioned exist to help you support your child, and understanding them can help you meet their needs both now and in the years to come. 

As you work to take care of your child, don’t forget to check out the other tips, tricks, and lifestyle guides on our site!

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