Many of my clients have been members of a regional center when they were young but once they started school Parents have allowed their eligibility to lapse. Also, Regional Centers represent to Parents that services are provided from the local school district once the child turns 3 years of age. It’s true that the regional centers don’t provide much support for a school age person, maybe just behavior support, social skills and respite. But future thinking Parents have to understand that once a student graduates high school the regional center system can be very helpful in providing transition and adult services.
The reason not to remove your child from the Regional Centers’ system is that it is sometimes very hard to get back in. If your child has received intensive services for their entire school lives they may present as fairly capable young adults. This is great news but they are still in need of wonderful regional center resources. Under the Lanterman Act even if your child was eligible at a young age to re-qualify they must have a “substantial disability” which results in major impairment of cognitive and/or social functioning. This impairment includes significant functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity. This includes receptive and expressive language, learning, self-care, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. This is often a difficult hurdle for our higher functioning children and regional centers are working to prevent these young adults from re-qualifying.
It doesn’t cost Regional Centers anything to determine that your child isn’t eligible. But it costs Parents a lot money and time to fight this determination. The system is not geared to favor Parents or young adults. Hearings are decided by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who are employees of the Office of Administrative Hearings, a state agency. The presumption that the ALJ begins the hearing with is that the Regional Centers employees are the experts so their determination of eligibility carries greater weight and the burden is on the Parent to show otherwise.
The takeaway from this is to make sure you get your child assessed and made eligible one of the state Regional Centers at the earliest age possible and definitely under the age of 18 years. You may not take advantage of the limited services offered or available during their school years but check out what is available at every stage of their life. You may never know what your child/adult may need.