In Massachusetts, at the age of 18, a student is legally considered to be an adult even if they have a disability. This is called the “age of majority”. In the eyes of the law, they assume adult rights and responsibilities. For example, they can sign their own Individualized Education Programs (IEP), vote, and take out a loan. Young men, regardless of their disability, must sign up for Selective Service.
Reaching the age of majority impacts how students receive special education services. According to law, a student and parent must be informed about the transfer of rights from parent to student at least one year prior to the student reaching the age of 18. When the student turns 18, the school district must get consent from the student to continue special education services.
There are particular issues that should be addressed by parents of a child with disabilities who is near to or who has reached the age of majority.
If your child needs your continuing support for making decisions and signing documents involving:
- Educational, Vocational, or Behavioral programs
- Release of clinical records and photographs
- Medical and dental care
As you begin to learn more about the variety of support options for your child, it is important to be aware there is a national movement raising awareness about Supported Decision Making.
Here are some resources to help you and your child gather information to discuss what is right for your family.
- Preparing for the Transfer of Rights: Taking a Closer Look at Guardianship and Supported Decision Making a brief compiled by Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) and the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS)
- Supported Decision Making Series offered by SPAN and Maine Parent Federation
At the age of 18 (the “age of majority”), your child is now considered to be an adult with disabilities. Financial assistance may be available from the following sources.
U.S. Government: Supplemental Social Security (SSI)
Social Security is now recommending that you apply in the month following your child’s 18th birthday. When you call, they will schedule a date and time for a telephone interview and mail you the necessary information prior to the scheduled date. They will gather any supporting information they need and usually decide upon eligibility within 90 days.
To Apply: Call the Social Security toll-free number, 800-772-1213 or apply online at www.ssa.gov.
State of Massachusetts: Department of Social Services
When you turn 18, you can vote in U.S. federal, state, and local elections if you:
- Are you a U.S. citizen (some areas allow non-citizens to vote in local elections only)
- Meet your state’s residency requirements
- Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
- In almost every state, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day.
- Are registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline.
In Massachusetts, you may submit an application to register or pre-register to vote if
- You are a citizen of the United States; and
- You are 16 years old; and
- You are not currently incarcerated by reason of a felony conviction.
If you meet the above requirements, you may apply online, by mail, or in-person.
The deadline to register to vote in any election or regular town meeting is twenty (20) days prior to the date of the election or meeting. The deadline to register to vote in a special town meeting is ten (10) days prior to the special town meeting.
Registering to vote for people with disabilities