An advocate’s timeline

Here’s a roadmap for parents of a child with a disability.



Please note: Each recommendation may not apply to a particular child, and should not be considered legal advice applicable to anyone’s particular situation.  

 

Birth to 2

  1. Early intervention

New Hampshire provides early intervention through area agencies for developmental services, each of which serve a particular region of the state. These services are authorized and funded by federal special education law, even though they are provided by state area agencies. A list of area agencies can be found at
dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bds/agencies.htm.   

  1. Estate planning: Wills, trusts, and special needs trusts

Drafting a will or revocable trust is essential for parents to ensure their assets are distributed as they wish, including providing for their children in the event that something happens to them. Seek the advice of an attorney who can advise you regarding the special estate planning concerns for a parent of a child with a disability.

  1. Estate planning: Wills, trusts, and special needs trusts

Drafting a will or revocable trust is essential for parents to ensure their assets are distributed as they wish, including providing for their children in the event that something happens to them. Seek the advice of an attorney who can advise you regarding the special estate planning concerns for a parent of a child with a disability.

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

This is cash assistance for low-income families who have a child who meets the medical and developmental criteria.  Apply at your local Social Security office.

  1. The ABLE Act

New in 2015, the ABLE Act allows annual contributions up to $14,000 to an account to pay for disability-related expenses of an individual who becomes disabled before age 26 and who meets Social Security’s criteria for disability. An ABLE Account is not subject to income tax, but contributions are not tax-deductible. The IRS issued proposed regulations to implement the ABLE Act, including what qualifies as a disability-related expense. The ABLE Act may be an option for some families based on what they expect their child’s needs may be, and whether or not those needs will be met by publicly financed programs. ABLE accounts are not currently available in NH; legislation is pending.


Age 3 to 5

  1. Special education

 If your child was not served by early intervention, but you believe your child has a disability that would impact his or her learning, apply for preschool special education in your local school district. Ask for the special education preschool program coordinator. The school district will evaluate your child’s eligibility free of charge. 

  1. Area agency for developmental disabilities

Your family may be eligible for family support services through the area agency if your child has a developmental disability as defined by the state. The criteria are different from eligibility for special education. A list of area agencies can be found at dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bds/agencies.htm.     

  1. Birth to age 2, Items b-e              

These items also apply to this age group.


Age 6 to 13

  1. Special education

Some disabilities, such as learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder, may not be apparent until the child has started school. You can request the school evaluate your child for special education at any time. If the school determines an evaluation is not required, you can appeal this decision to the state Department of Education. 

  1. Section 504

Section 504 is a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It applies to schools and other federally funded entities. If your child is not eligible for special education, they may be eligible for a 504 Plan, developed by you and the school that provides accommodations the child will receive at school and school-based settings.

  1. Birth to age 2, Items b-e              

These items also apply to this age group.


Age 14 to 17

  1. Special education transition planning

This should be done at age 14, for some students, and by age 16, for all students.  The transition plan should be more than a list of courses or general goals. It should be a specific roadmap to take your child from special education to adult living. 

  1. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

The IEP transition plan should involve New Hampshire’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. If your child does not have an IEP, but has a disability that impacts work, your child is still eligible for services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Make contact in your child’s last year of high school. VR can provide services for college students as well as workers. A list of regional offices: education.nh.gov/career/vocational/contact.htm#regional

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

You may wish to consult with an attorney regarding your child’s individual eligibility at age 18, including income and resource requirements and transfer of assets rules.

  1. Birth to age 2, Items b-e              

These items also apply to this age group.


Age 18 and older

  1. Obtain a durable power of attorney (including educational authority) or guardianship if appropriate for your child

Seek legal advice regarding powers of attorney. If guardianship is appropriate for your child, you should file for guardianship in your local probate court about a month before your child turns 18. For information, call the court call-in center at 855-212-1234.

  1. Rental agreements

If your child is living with you and you expect him/her to pay rent or otherwise contribute to the cost of the household, enter into a written rental agreement that identifies how much your child will pay. If the child does not have any income, but expects to receive income (such as SSI), the agreement can state that you will loan the child the money until he or she has income, at which time you and your child agree the child will pay you back.

  1. If programs are applicable, your child has to do the following on their own, unless he or she appointed you as their representative, or the court appointed a guardian: 

1.  Apply for SSI

2.  Apply for area agency services, if your child has a designated developmental disability

3.  Apply for Medicaid and food stamps at your local State of New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
District Office

4.  Apply for Section 8 housing. Local communities and the State of New Hampshire maintain different waiting lists.

  1. Estate planning

If not already done, seek legal advice to prepare or update estate planning documents appropriate for your needs, including parents’ wills, trusts, special needs trusts, ABLE Act account, etc.

Sheila Zakre is an attorney in Concord who has been practicing law since 1987.  She advocates statewide in all areas of disability and elder law, including, but not limited to, discrimination, special education special needs trusts, Social Security Medicaid, and wills and trusts. Contact her at sheila@zlawnh.com.

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