You may always think of your son or daughter as a child. But in the eyes of the law, people are considered adults when they turn age 18 to 21 (it varies by state). When your child becomes an adult, the rights and responsibilities you had as a parent belong to your child.
What if your child isn’t ready for the responsibilities of managing her own education? Will you have any say? The transition into adulthood has a lot of implications. Here are some of the key points.
The Age of Adulthood Varies by State
The age of majority—the age when an individual is no longer a minor but is an adult—is determined by state law. In most states, the age of majority is 18. But in a few states, it’s sometime between ages 18 and 21.
How Rights Transfer to the Child
At least a year before a student with an IEP reaches the age of majority, the school is supposed to notify her about which rights will transfer to her. How they tell her is left up to the states.
In most states, when a student turns 18, she assumes all of the educational rights the parents had. This includes taking the main role in developing her Individual Educational Program (IEP). The school now:
- Invites the student to participate in IEP meetings
- Requires the student’s consent for an evaluation or re-evaluation
- Needs the student’s approval for any change in placement
The student also has the right to dispute school decisions through the process of mediation and due process.
The student takes over the right to give—or deny—informed consent to any action the school wants to take. This means that if the school wants to change the student’s services in any way, it needs the student’s permission, not the parent’s.
But not all states work this way. In some states, only some of the educational rights transfer at the age of majority. It’s important to find out how it works in your state to be sure.
Remember that a student’s right to an IEP and educational services will end. When she graduates from high school with a regular diploma or when she reaches the age of 21 (whichever comes first) she won’t be eligible anymore.
Some states have a legal process to figure out if the student can handle these new responsibilities and rights. If the state finds that the student isn’t ready, it may appoint the parent or another person to represent the student.
Preparing Your Child for Independence
There are things you can do to help ease your child into her adult role.
- Help your child develop a good relationship with the IEP team. Beginning in high school, students typically are invited to IEP meetings. They’re expected to play a major part, especially when it comes to transition planning (figuring out what to do after high school). Let your child participate actively in those discussions with the team.
- Encourage your child to speak up. Rather than speaking for your child, let her assume center stage at the meetings. If she is used to advocating for herself, it will be easier for her to keep doing that as an adult.
- Stay involved. When your child reaches the age of majority, your participation isn’t required. But the school or your child can invite you to attend IEP meetings. After all, you’re deeply knowledgeable about your child’s needs and talents, so your input is valuable.