Legal Issues and Autism

November 24, 2015

How does the law protect children and adults with autism and autism spectrum disorders?  Legislation for people who have been diagnosed with autism exists in the areas of education, health insurance, financial security and guardianship.  While this is not legal advice it can point you in the right direction and educate you on issues relating to legal matters and autism.  Please see the resources listed below and seek the counsel of a professional special needs attorney to answer your questions about your unique situation.

  • Health Insurance – Most of the legislation to provide insurance coverage for the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism has been enacted within the last few years. Currently, 33 states require insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults up to age 26. Denial of coverage can be appealed. When your child reaches the age of maturity, medicaid health benefits are available for individuals who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Medicaid provides government-funded health insurance for children and adults with disabilities who have limited financial resources.
  • Guardianship – In the eyes of the law, even a person with a significant developmental, cognitive, or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions on his or her own behalf at the age of majority.  The only way parents can continue making decisions for their child is to become their legal guardian. Seek the advice of a special need and/or family issues attorney to handle this matter.
  • Education– Everyone has a right to an education.  Your child has a right to free, appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA requires that schools provide special education services to eligible students as outlined in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Children with disabilities are placed on what is called an individual education plan or IEP.  This document details your child’s special needs, strengths and weaknesses as well as how to fairly and appropriately meet the needs of your child in the classroom.
  • Finances – Many parents of children with disabilities will draw up trusts to specify care and financial needs of the child.  Children with disabilities, including autism, qualify for Social Security income. After age 18, they also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance/Disabled Adult Child Benefits.

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