Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Most likely, your child has been receiving services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) throughout his/her school years to remediate areas of disability and maximize his or her potential.

Some children participate in transition programs until the year in which they turn 21 years old. The transition from school-age to adult services, whether at 18 or 21, can be a period of celebration and pride.  Hopefully, by the time your child exits school, he or she has acquired the skills to be happy, healthy, live safely, and work productively in the community.

For some, however, the path away from the structure and protection of the IEP and into the world of adult services can be destabilizing, uncertain, and a source of anxiety for both you and your now, adult, child.

To minimize stress during this period of transition, it is important to be prepared and to identify the supports and services your child may continue to require as he or she enters the next phase.

If your child has a developmental disability that was identified prior to age 21, and that substantially limits their ability to care for themselves and live independently, you may consider applying for eligibility through the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD).

Application process for DDD

The recommended time to begin the application process for DDD is 6-12 months before the individual turns 21 or is expected to exit the school system. Typically, an individual can apply for DDD at age 18 but cannot begin to receive DDD services until they turn 21.

To be eligible, you must complete the DDD Application for Eligibility and go through the DDD Intake Process. A family member or other interested person can assist an individual in completing DDD’s Application for Eligibility but cannot apply on the individual’s behalf (unless the family member is also a legal guardian).

The DDD application has to be supported by documentation that your child meets the functional criteria for a developmental disability, is a U.S. citizen, is a resident of New Jersey, and is eligible for or enrolled in Medicaid.

A DDD Intake Worker will do a preliminary review and schedule a mutually agreeable time for completion of the NJCAT (New Jersey Comprehensive Assessment Tool). The NJCAT is a tool to determine your child’s support needs in the areas of self-care, behavioral, and medical.  Scores on the NJCAT are tabulated to establish a level of need or tier.  The tier determines his/her annual DDD budget.  In essence, the more needy the individual, the more services and supports they require, and the greater his/her DDD budget will be.

DDD can provide services such as day habilitation, (education and training that assist the individual in gaining skills needed to participate in the community), one-on-one direct support; pre-vocational training and supported employment; transportation, housing, and residential services and more.

When you are determined eligible for DDD and a tier level has been established, you select a Support Coordination Agency (SCA).   A Support Coordinator (SC) is assigned to work with you to determine how the DDD budget will be used to provide necessary services.   Together, you and your Support Coordinator will develop an Individual Service Plan or ISP.

Because Medicaid eligibility is also a requirement for DDD services, it is highly recommended that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as soon as they turn 18. To apply for SSI, contact the local Social Security office.

If your child is eligible for SSI, which provides a monthly stipend basically for food and shelter, he or she may be automatically eligible for Medicaid as long as his/her personal income does not exceed the income and resource limits.  A separate application for Medicaid may not be required.

To lessen stress as your child with developmental disabilities exits the comfort and familiarity of Special Education and prepares for a journey through adulthood, it is important that you connect your child to the agencies that can provide the financial support and services that will help them to function as independently, and as safely and productively as possible, in the community.

Sometimes, the application process for DDD, SSI, and Medicaid services can be difficult to navigate.  At Manes & Weinberg, we can consult with you to answer any questions and guide you through the process.