What happens when disabled children reach adulthood?
Photo: Nicole Hamel
The day Cody Phillips turned 18, an unspoken question hung in the air.
Cody has autism, and his mother, Joy Phillips, like many parents of children with special needs, wasn’t sure what lay ahead for her son. First to go on that birthday was the day care where he enjoyed a safe and encouraging atmosphere. Four years later, he aged out of the public education system, losing opportunities to connect with peers.
Cody, now 26, was pushed into the woefully lacking system for disabled adults.
“More services are needed for adults with special needs,” says Joy, a Lady Lake resident and nurse with Cornerstone Hospice. “They may be grown up, but they still need medical treatment and places to live.”
Joy, a single mother, could no longer allow Cody to live at home because he was prone to aggressive behavior. He spent four months at LifeStream Behavioral Center while Joy tried to find living arrangements for him. He first lived at Carlton Palms, a home for developmentally disabled people in Mount Dora, and now lives at a group home in Howey-in-the-Hills.
Supplemental Security Income, a federal program, pays his room and board, and the state-sponsored Agency for Persons with Disabilities funds visits to a behavioral therapist and medical interventions.
Being a parent of a child or adult with special needs comes with a unique set of challenges, not the least of which is tapping into a limited amount of resources. Joy recommends joining a support group for parents of special needs children.
“It’s a great way to find out what kind of assistance is available to you,” she says. “Other parents are wonderful resources.”
Lake County disability resources
Building Blocks Learning Center, Minneola: Provides programs to adults with developmental disabilities to prepare them for independent living and employment. 352.536.9264.
The Arc Sunrise of Central Florida, Leesburg: Provides various art and recreational programs for adults with disabilities, and a group home for people with intellectual disabilities. 352.787.3079
Florida Department of Education, Tavares: Offers a program for people with physical or mental disabilities to gain employment or find careers. 352.483.4200.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Tavares: Provides high-quality legal services to the disabled. 352.343.6351.
LovExtension, Umatilla: Provides social visitation to disabled adults residing in Lake County who are hospitalized or residing in a nursing home, assisted living facility or retirement community. 352.669.1121.