An Overview Of Adults With Special Needs


Adults with special needs are individuals over the age of 18 who have a medical condition or disability.
People in this group may include:
• A spouse with a chronic illness or an acquired disability
• A child with a developmental disorder transitioning to adulthood
• A family member over 21 years of age, with complex needs and who requires assistance to live on his or her own Supporting adult family members with complex needs may involve collaboration with a variety of support systems and community-based services. Assistance may include access to nonclinical case management, referrals to mental health services and public benefits.

An adult child with special needs:
• May receive academic services through an individualized education program, or IEP
• May require transition support as he or she reaches the age of majority
• May remain under guardianship or incapacitated adult status
• May require assistance to live on his or her own Adults with acquired special needs:
• May have been diagnosed with an illness or disability after reaching adulthood
• May require the same resources provided for lifelong disability


There are a number of military programs and resources available to support service members as they carry out their duties. These programs and resources include:
• Military and Family Support Centers
• Exceptional Family Member Program
• Relocation Assistance Program
• Deployment Support Program
• Personal Financial Management Program
• Family Advocacy Program
• Relief societies-Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Air Force Aid Society
• Service-sponsored websites


Civilian and military advocates who worked to bring about legal, medical and social changes to address the needs of individuals with special needs, have paved the way for improved services and resources in many areas. These groups have encouraged the passage of three important laws:
• Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
• Americans with Disabilities Act
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

For more information about how to receive assistance, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website.


• Brings the individual together with a team of family, friends, neighbors, employers, community members and healthcare professionals to find out what is important to the person with the disability, now and in the future
• Matches the wants and needs of a person with a disability to existing services, adapts existing services to better suit the person or creates new services if required
• Gives people with disabilities and their families more control over services and the direction of their lives
• Helps people with disabilities accomplish their goals and fit in and contribute to society in a personalized way, rather than passively accepting services based solely on their diagnosis and condition
• Finds ways for the person with the disability to develop the skills and abilities needed to work toward achieving his or her goals and having more control in his or her life


• Focuses on the person with the disabilities, not the planner
• Focuses on the person’s strengths, not deficits
• Helps alleviate isolation, stigmatizing labels, loss of opportunity and loss of hope


Person-centered planning aims to help the person with disabilities do the following:
• Live in the community
• Choose his or her own services and housing
• Develop his or her own skills and interests
• Be treated with respect
• Find a valued social role
• Find meaningful independent relationships


• An unbiased facilitator: Facilitators encourage brainstorming during the meeting and help identify friends, family or professionals that can help keep the plan on track.
• Advocates: Disability service advocates can help get resources, talk about options, help with evaluating plans and services, and help the person with the disability become a self-advocate.
• Family members and friends: Immediate and extended family members and close friends can weigh options and help with informed decision making.


• Exceptional Family Member Program: Your installation Exceptional Family Member Program family support office and Military OneSource can assist with finding person-centered planning facilitators and resources. Although facilitators and related resources will most likely come with a fee, a consultation with your installation Exceptional Family Member Program or Military OneSource is free. Call 800-342-9647 to speak with a consultant.
• State-Provided Resources: State provided adult services specialists may be available in some states. You can search for programs and organizations providing advocacy at by entering “advocate” and your state.
• University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: A Center for Excellence is another great resource for finding person centered planning facilitators. To locate a center in your state, visit the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities website.


The more you know about how you fit into the planning process, the more you can help meet the goals of the person with the disability. To assist with planning, it’s useful to become familiar with some of the following:
• Preparation: An Internet search for “person-centered planning tool kit” should provide resources to help you prepare for the planning meeting.
• Disability services and rights: People with disabilities have certain rights under the law.
• Resource entitlements: Many benefits for people with disabilities are available. Visit to find out what Social Security benefits, medical services, employment, housing, transportation, respite care and other forms of assistance are available at the federal level. The site also has links to state benefits.•

– Military OneSource

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