Parental Concerns of the Special Needs Teenager
I know, a big milestone. He can register to vote, join the military, legally purchase cigarettes, enter into binding contracts, get a tattoo or piercing without mom or dad saying that it's acceptable. But that would be if he were a typical kid. No, GameTeen probably will not have the maturity to do many of these things for quite a few years. Rather, the maturity to NOT do some of them-like those cigarettes, tattoos, or piercings, and I think the military would exclude him with his Aspergers Syndrome.
This presents two things that are front and center on the agenda for him and other special needs kids-Guardianship and Social Security Disability. On the second, he was determined to be disabled and received $90 a month in SSI from the time he was seven until about six months before I became unemployed in 2008. I was determined to make too much money for him to receive benefits, and there was considerable red tape in trying to get it restored and I gave up.
Last month, though, with his looming 18th birthday and the knowledge that it is easier for a minor determined to be disabled to gain benefits than someone over 18, I contacted the Social Security Administration to inquire whether we are supposed to apply for reinstatement or complete a new claim. I haven't gotten a response, so we'll operate under the assumption that he needs to begin a new application. At least there are 13 years of medical and school records to offer as supporting evidence. Still, there's some legwork ahead, and it will be time consuming.
The other part is equally important. While he is an extremely intelligent person, he has the emotional maturity of an elementary school child. So, with GameTeen on the verge of 18, we are applying for guardianship for our own child. This is a common situation for special needs parents. I've gathered snippets of information here and there and found that in Florida, you petition the court in your county as opposed to the state. Thankfully, there are a few counties that have posted guides to the process and they're very similar, so I am hopeful that our county is somewhat similar and I'll just have to spend one day doing all the leg work, drop off the paperwork to a lawyer or the clerk of the court (depends on the county, I'm told), then appear in court with GameTeen to complete this process.
That has a domino effect, for once that is done, we have to prepare specific types of wills-and that will definitely require the services of a lawyer. We have a good estate lawyer that we've worked with before. Yay, that's one thing off the list.
It's funny, someone said to me last month 'wow, you must be excited that he's turning 18 soon!' I laughed with the person, but I really don't think she knew that it has some important stuff tied to it that the average person never will have to consider.
We won't even talk about the part where my job contract ends and I'm job seeking like mad before the contract ends, doing schoolwork, AND trying to get all this accomplished, too! There's a vacation on the horizon and my goal is to have all of this done, so that the vacation is just rest and relaxation and fruity drinks.
Wish me luck.