5 Things to Know When Your Child with Disabilities Turns 18

October 26, 2023 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: October 26, 2023

A mother and son sitting on a couch while looking at a tablet deviceWhen your child turns 18 years old, they legally become an adult. This is an important time to consider their financial future – especially if they need additional care into adulthood. Here are 5 things that you need to know to prepare for this milestone:

1. Health and Welfare Decision-making

When your child becomes a legal adult, you can no longer make certain decisions for them about their health and welfare. However, you can stay involved through:

  • A Representative Payee: Social Security will determine who best serves as Representative Payee for your child’s benefits.
  • Guardianship: This requires court involvement. It may be necessary if your child can’t execute a power of attorney. Please consult an attorney for assistance.

2. Changes in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Eligibility

SSI provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness who have income and resources below specific financial limits.

When your child turns 18, Social Security will review their eligibility for continued SSI payments based on the disability rules for adults. For more information, please review the publication, What You Need To Know About Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) When You Turn 18. We also encourage you to check out Social Security’s Youth Resources page.

3. Education Transitions

If your child attended public school, they have a few options to continue their education after graduation, including:

  • Diploma: They may pursue further education in college or trade programs with Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • Certificate: They may have the opportunity to continue in a transitional program in their high school even after they complete their senior year. Most are permitted to remain until they turn 22.
  • Employment: Local Vocational Rehabilitation Services can assist with employment options during pre-graduation IEP meetings.

4. Living Arrangements Supports

Once your child turns 18, they may choose or qualify for different living arrangements depending on the services they already receive. For example, if your child receives therapy services at school, how will they receive them once they transition out of school? They could receive them through a Medicaid Waiver or private insurance.

Qualification for respite services may also look different. Respite services allow family caregivers time to step away from their duties. It is essential you understand all the benefits and options available to your child after they complete high school before deciding on living arrangements and services.

5. Financial Protections

  • Special Needs Trust: Update estate planning documents before your child turns 18. Otherwise, inheritance may terminate your child’s governmental benefits.
  • ABLE Account: You can deposit funds into this account up to a certain limit each year; however, there are limits on what its funding covers.

Children receiving benefits on a parent’s record may continue to receive those benefits until age 19 if they’re a full-time elementary or secondary school student. People who have a qualifying disability that began before age 22 may also be eligible to receive child’s benefits at any age. For more information, please review the publication, Benefits for Children.

As your child turns 18, consider these issues while you navigate their financial future. For more information, please visit the Social Security website and contact the Special Needs Alliance.

Our posting of this blog does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any non-Social Security organization, author, or webpages.

Did you find this Information helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Tags: , ,

See Comments

About the Author


  1. Frank R.

    Thanks for providing important information for parents of children with disabilities who are on their way to adulthood. The article covers five key areas: health and welfare decision-making, changes in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility, education transitions, living arrangements support, and financial protections. It would be easier for kids whose parents are prepared to achieve their career goals. I was looking for online resources for students and read a lot of great reviews at https://www.yelp.com/biz/edubirdie-wilmington which helped me to understand that my kid use reliable assistance online. I would recommend it to any parent who is facing this transition.

  2. uwa i.

    Thank you for your useful content.

    We are glad that you visit our website wadupnaija.com.

  3. Kjd

    Interesting information.
    I have a situation. My parents were older when my mom had my brother, she was 42 and high risk. I know there were problems at his birth that made him challenged. My parents wouldn’t accept it and when I would say there was something wrong with him, they would say No there is Not!!! He graduated with a Para 1-12th grade. The school made my parents put him on Ritalin in 1st grade and my mom said that’s when he developed his stutter. He never left home. He was dependant on my parents, then in thier later years were dependent on him to still stay at home.
    Now my parents have passed. The only job he could hold was helping farmers, one a cousin, one a friend from school. When those jobs dried up he does not have the skills, money, clothes, or even self esteem to go out and get a job. When he talks to new people, he gets nervous and stutters more. I finally talked him in to signing him up for disability, but it’s a long shot. His birth records were wiped out in a flood. He is 49 years old I can’t keep paying his bills! Can’t he get benifits from my parents since the stutter happened (a disability) in 1st grade?

  4. Judy S.

    My adult grandson has mental issues has an attention problem,high anxiety issues and is seeing a psychiatrist,he has to take medication to help him stay calm,he works at a fast food place but he is having a hard time and is struggling,he does not have a primary care doctor but go to a clinic when he has to, how can I help him file for disability and what needs to be done.Thank you

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Judy. We are sorry to hear about your grandson’s condition and situation. For more information about disability and how to apply, please visit our Apply Online for Disability Benefits page. We hope this helps. 

  5. Astrologer S.

    Thanks for sharing this useful information. If you are looking for a famous astrologer in India then meet Astrologer Sampat. He is a world famous astrologer in India.

    • Steven L.

      I think you should have turned left at Albuquerque, as Bugs Bunny said.

  6. Kelly K.

    Thank you for providing this article containing valuable information for families. While you were clearly giving a high level overview, things that were not said could cause some confusion for families.

    As a family member who supports other families, I too often see guardianship promoted by schools, agencies and even medical practitioners. There are other tools to help with decision making that are supported in many states and territories, such as Supported Decision Making – since guardianship is to be the last consideration. Mental health powers may also be given.

    Second, it is my understanding that when someone turns 18, they must “apply” for Social Security so that review about eligibility can happen. Eligibility for adults is then not only about disability but the ability to be substantially gainfully employed.

    With regard to the educational pieces, any student can graduate with a regular diploma if they meet the graduation criteria. A student with an IEP may get that diploma by meeting their IEP goals, if the team has determined that that is appropriate. Attending a school of higher ed is an option if accepted; some have programs specifically designed to support those with disabilities. As I understand it, a certificate is awarded to those who age out of special education without having been awarded a diploma. A solid transition plan in high school – which is expected to address goals for future employment, future education and independent living – can be very helpful in preparing for life beyond high school, can be very robust, and can uniquely support skill development and training. VocRehab (OVR) can be involved both during the transition time and well after in a host of ways focused on finding and keeping employment; one can always apply for their services.

    With respect to living arrangements, many individuals continue to live in the family home. You didn’t mention how SSI can be impacted when that happens.

    Regarding continued medical coverage, many continue to qualify for Medicaid due to having little to no income, thus qualifying under the MAGI category. If they are on Medicaid, the hearty EPSDT benefits that that provides continue until they are 21, so that therapy you mentioned can continue, albeit in a different place/way. Medicaid waivers are not an entitlement; getting one is highly variable across the county, the services they offer vary and they don’t move across state lines. Remember too that under the ACA, a child can stay on their parents insurance until they are 26. Those who aged out of foster care should also maintain some coverage.

    Again, your valuable information should be a starting place to continue to learn more about our children as they near adulthood. Thank you for getting us thinking.

    • Mary M.

      I am a mother of a child who has been on medicare over 7 years, and at this age I am 69 yesrs old, is there a program or house that I can apply for her, even though she is on medicare. I want her to try living on her own

      • Sue

        Hi, Mary. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. Your child may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which you live. These include housing assistance, housekeeping, transportation, and referrals. To learn about services in your community and to find out if your child qualifies, we recommend you contact your state or local social services agency or welfare office. We hope this helps.

  7. Gerardo M.

    You forgot to mention the rather important option of suing your dependent so that s/he doesn’t become an adult. As a non-emancipated adult, they get all the opportunities from SSA and elsewhere, but a guardian makes their decisions about funds and health.

  8. Gladys L.

    Hello, my adult son who was disabled before 22 is receiving SSA survivor benefits from my late husband’s benefits and also food stamps. He may be going to a group home. Will he loose that income? Or will it go to the group home?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Gladys. Thanks for visiting our blog. Typically, living arrangements do not affect survivors benefits. However, for your son’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. He can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. He can also contact his local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

      • Gladys L.

        Thank you.

  9. Ricky E.

    My son is 33 and suffers from Fragile X syndrome. Is there any help my wife and I can receive like food stamps. He already receive a little check from SSI. But if you could send me information about resources available; I would appreciate it Ricky Daughtry. rdaughtry1952@gmail;.com Thank you.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ricky. Thanks for visiting our blog. You may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which you live. These services include free meals, housekeeping help, transportation, or help with other problems. To get information about services in your area and find out if your son qualifies, you will need to contact your state or local social services or welfare office. Just a reminder – please be cautious about posting personal information on social media. We hope this helps.


  10. Ms. H.

    My grand-daughter turned 19 in August and her SSI account was cancelled. She graduated from high school last year and had IEP since age 5. It’s hard for her to find employment with no skills. She’s depressed. What can I do to help her?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ms. Hines. We are sorry to hear about your granddaughter’s condition and situation. She can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. She can also contact her local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

      • Darlene

        There are Independent Living Centers who receive grant funds to support and help individuals at any age navigate options. ILCs are a hidden gem which the public lacks information of their non profit long-term services and supports.
        Best, DR

Comments are closed.