Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a monthly cash benefit for eligible disabled minors and adults.  Claimants need to be found disabled under Social Security rules and be in financial need to qualify. The eligibility rules change once an individual turns 18. SSI is a means based program and individuals must have low income and resources to be eligible.


Medicaid is a federal match program that pays for a variety of services in addition to traditional healthcare services. Through the use of Medicaid waivers, states can get Medicaid funding to pay for a variety of programs.  Like SSI, Medicaid is a means based program and the individual applying for Medicaid must have low income/resources to be eligible and stay eligible.

Adult Services

States have wide latitude on what adult services are available and the eligibility for these programs and services.  Depending on eligibility for specific programs and the individual’s unique needs, the services may include: personal care services, case management, housing supports, community support personnel, job coaching and more.  Medicaid eligibility is important for these programs, although you state may allow for the services to be paid for out of pocket.


Every person who is an adult is deemed competent in their ability to make decisions, be responsible, take care of their basic needs and be accountable for their actions. Legal guardianship places responsibility on the shoulders of another adult to make decisions for a person who is not able to make proper decisions on their own.  Only a court can appoint a guardian of a person who is in need of legal guardianship.

Alternatives to Guardianship

There are many considerations for parents to consider before pursuing guardianship over their disabled adult child. In Vermont, this requires that alternatives to guardianship be taken into consideration before applying for involuntary guardianship over another adult.

Special Needs Planning

If you haven’t already done your own estate planning, now is an essential time to make sure all of your important documents are in place. For your disabled child, this would include the drafting of a special needs trust. Many important government programs require that a person have very low income and resources to be eligible and not lose eligibility for their programs.

Letter of Intent

For this purpose, a Letter of Intent is not a legal document but a collection of information created by a child’s main caregiver for the benefit of future caregivers. This would include everything from contacts such as school personnel, personal caregivers, extended family and medical personnel to more information about the disabled individual’s needs and wants.

Organizing your records

It is especially important to keep good organization of your child’s records between the ages of 16 to 26. This would include school records, school evaluations, guardianship evaluations, medical records and even SSI information. There may be an opportunity for additional benefits or programs in the future and there may be a need to prove that was disabled as a young adult.


It is important to have a strong transition plan in your child’s IEP to ensure your child has the best preparation for adulthood, including for purposes of employment and continuing education. The transition plan should be customized to your child’s individual needs and should be updated no less than once per year. For individuals who will be going to college, federal protections also exist to allow for needed accommodations.


Claudia will be presenting a workshop on the above topics on November 14th in Barre, VT as part of the Vermont Autism Task Force “Workshop Day”. This workshop is not autism specific and is appropriate for parents of children with all disabilities. Click here for more information and to register.