Though it provides information specific to Massachussets, Students can ‘age out’ of special education provides a good general overview of the types of support and services available for autistic adults, as well as limitations to those services. As important, the article provides key advice for parents of autistic children approaching adulthood.
[S]pecial education for children is an entitlement program that provides services based on the child’s needs. Cost cannot be used as a reason to deny special education services for children. In contrast, services for adults are based on funding that has been assigned by the state Legislature. Adult services are not automatically available. Multiple factors – such as the amount of money budgeted by the state, and the number of students turning 22 in a given year – affect the availability of services. (In some states, such as NJ, the financial status of the autistic person is also taken into account when determining eligibility for specific support and services.)
When a child approaches adulthood, long-term legal and financial planning should begin. In particular, parents need to consider whether full or partial guardianship is appropriate for their son or daughter. Also, each child should apply for federal benefits, such as Social Security. (It is important to keep in mind that, by default, when a child turns 18 years old they automatically become their own guardian. If you want to retain full or partial guardianship over your autistic child, you need to convince the courts that your child is not capable of being their own guardian.)
Parents should carefully consider the advisability of the student leaving school prior to age 22 because entitlement services end when the student leaves school. Moreover, the last two years in the school system can be invaluable, providing students with increased exposure to career development and work experience.
As with any kind of financial and future needs planning, it is probably never too early to start making a plan.