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Ask a Self-Advocate: What I wish I’d known at 18

This post is part of MAC’s “Ask a Self-Advocate” blog series. This series was written by “JOSO*,” MAC’s 2017-2018 Young Adult Leaders Fellow, who is an autistic young man. The Young Adult Leaders Fellowship provides an opportunity for young adults aged 18-26 with intellectual disabilities and/or autism to learn the professional skills needed to advocate on behalf of other youth with disabilities. “Ask a Self-Advocate” was JOSO’s final project for the Fellowship and will include 13 posts published through the end of the year.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

My suggestions are based on my own experience. I realize that what worked for me may not work for everyone else.

When should students receive transition services?

I think it would have been better if I had received some transition services when I was younger, starting in the ninth grade, because then I would not have been overwhelmed with transition training during my senior year of high school. Also, I would have learned about and been prepared for the changes that occurred when I turned 18, the age of majority. I would have learned that I would have to sign legal documents, speak up for myself, and make my own decisions when I turned 18. I could no longer rely solely on my mother.

However, it might have been hard to find the time to provide me with transition services in which I would not miss class.

Turning age 18

I felt confused and overwhelmed when I turned 18 because of all the legal documents I had to sign. The kinds of legal documents that I had to sign were tax forms, bank statements, and consent forms so that people could talk to my mom. I found the documents confusing because they contained legal jargon, were very dense, and I was not sure if they had fine print. I feel as though I need to completely understand a document before I sign it, so I tried to take my time and read the document thoroughly.

I wish I had known that people with disabilities can be provided with simplified and/or modified versions of legal documents that are easier for them to understand. I think that people with disabilities should be provided with definitions of legal terms when they read a legal document.

In my next blog, I will talk about how I advocated for myself in high school.

Click here to read the other posts in this series.