Children with disabilities or special health care needs often find other people making choices for them: where they’ll live, what therapies they’ll get and even what they’ll eat. But being able to make even small everyday choices for themselves, which we sometimes call self-determination, helps your child start down the road to independence.
You can support your child in making decisions at any time in their lives by helping them get information about a situation and understand more about the choices they could make. If your adult child still needs or wants help with their choices, you or another trusted adult can also make a clear, written and legal supported decision-making agreement with them.
Read on to learn more and for tips on how you can support your child in making decisions at any age, with or without a legal agreement.
At age 18, in the eyes of the law, your now-adult child is completely responsible for their own choices. The doctors, therapists and school staff who used to include you in every visit or meeting might not be able to talk to you without your child’s permission. Or they might have new doctors and other professionals in their life who won’t talk to you without a legal document in place.
The following pages on this website might help you as your child becomes an adult:
A supported decision-making agreement is a legal document for adults with disabilities or special health care needs. If your adult child is going to need help in certain areas of their life, their school might start talking to you about guardianship or other legal options that you can use to support your child. Supported decision-making is another option that might fit your child’s needs instead of guardianship.
The agreement says that you, or another trusted adult they choose, will help your adult child with certain decisions.
When setting up the supported decision-making agreement, your adult child decides which choices they want to get help with, like:
Also, if your adult child wants your help with health care or school, they might need to sign release forms. You can download a medical release form or get one from the doctor or therapist. You can get a school release form from your child’s school counselor.
Even without a legal agreement, you can use a supported decision-making approach in daily life to help your child make decisions. And if you start this when your child is young, it might be easier to do when they’re an adult.
When you have a big decision to make in your life, you probably don’t do it all by yourself. You most likely call a friend, talk to your family or ask someone else you trust for their opinion. And then you make your choice.
There are three parts of a supported decision-making process:
When you support your child, you don’t make the decisions for them. You help them make decisions for themselves.
For example, let’s say your child wants to be in an art class after school and has a chance to do a dance class at the same time.
Making decisions isn’t always easy. Here are some resources that might help both you and your child when important decisions come up:
Every child has different needs, and there are different ways you can work with your child to make everyday and bigger life decisions. Just because your child turns 18 doesn’t mean you stop being their parent.
Using supported decision-making and setting up a legal supported decision-making agreement can make it easier for you and them as they transition into the world of adulthood.