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It’s not the disability that defines you; its how you deal with the challenges the disability presents you with.

Jim Abbott

Adulthood and Beyond


When you finally turn 18 you're legally an adult...now what?

When it comes to your health care, once you turn 18, you’re legally an adult and you can do anything an adult can do. You will have certain rights and certain responsibilities. Among the most important is the right to have most of your medical information kept private…even from parents. Along with this comes the responsibility to sign your own consent forms that state that you understand what doctors are telling you and you agree with the tests, surgeries or any other procedures that have been discussed. Doctors cannot talk to anyone else about your health unless you give them permission to do so. In case of emergencies, you must sign a “release of information” form ahead of time so that they can contact parents or anyone else you indicate. All this may seem a bit scary, that’s why it’s important to understand your health situation now. Then, you can be better prepared once you have to tackle it on your own.

But remember, just because you’re the sole person responsible for your health doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. The best tip we can give you is…Always ask! You can find websites and other useful information sources in the “Resources” section of this guide.

Turning 18 is an exciting moment. Now that you are legally an adult, you can make your own decisions and take on your own responsibilities. You may not “feel” different, but the choices you now get to make will definitely be different. You can vote, sign contracts, manage your health care and decide who can access that information. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to practice managing your health situation — keeping a health journal, talking with your current doctor, taking a more active role managing your health — and now you are fully prepared to transition to an adult-oriented health care program. This transition can be a smooth one with guidance, support and help from the resources available to you.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Transfer your health care to a doctor for adults. This is probably your first time choosing your own doctor, so here are a few tips to help you:

  • Ask others for recommendations: Talk to your current doctor about a referral. Talk to family and friends. Or seek advise from local support groups for individuals with similar disabilities or medical conditions.

  • Meet with the new doctor early and while you’re healthy to discuss your needs and treatment preferences. Procedures are often different from the pediatric practices you became accustomed to as a child.

  • Develop a relationship with your new doctor. This takes time, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and give your opinion. You need to feel as comfortable with your new doctor as you did with the one you are leaving behind.

  1. Establish yourself as the leader in managing your health care. Remember, up to now, your parents made most of the decisions and it’ll be hard for them to let go. But make sure they know their input and opinions are welcome. They may not be in charge anymore, but their years of experience caring for you make them valuable sources of information and support.

  2. Make sure you are aware of your options for health insurance coverage. This can be the most complicated aspect of all as you may still be covered by your parents’ plan or a combination of public and private plans. The insurance that you had before you turned 18 will likely change, so it’s important you understand what type of coverage you have and how it will change.


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