The Answer Book: Education help after high school if you have severe disabilities

Youth with certain disabilities may qualify for special services as adults.

Table of Contents

Are you eligible for Chapter 688 services?

You must be currently registered and attending school and receiving special educational services in Massachusetts in order to be eligible for 688 planning services. In addition, you must be in need of continued assistance because of a severe disability and unable to work 20 or more hours per week. You may not be able to complete tasks such as meal preparation or hygiene steps without someone telling you or giving you a hand.

If you have been found eligible for services through any state agency, you are eligible for 688 planning services. If you are receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits or have been found legally blind, you are eligible for 688 planning services.

How does the Chapter 688 process work?

At least two years before you are either going to graduate from high school or turn age 22 (whichever comes first) – you may ask the school district during your yearly IEP meeting to make a 688 referral. The referral is made based on how severe your needs are and the determination that you will need additional services after leaving school. The referral must be signed by a parent, guardian or you once you have reached the age of 18. Ask for a copy of the referral from your guidance counselor. You can actually ask for a 688 referral once you turn age 16.

Once the 688 referral has been made, what happens?

The school district sends the referral to the state agency in the best position to meet your planning needs. Some of the local agencies are Department of Children and Families (DCF), Division of Youth Services (DYS), Department of Developmental Services (DDS), or Department of Mental Health (DMH) to name a few.

Once the agency receives the referral they talk with you about whether you meet the criteria for a treatment plan meeting during which an Individual Treatment Plan (referred to as an ITP) will be developed. The ITP outlines your strengths and interests. It makes suggestions as to what services could help support you. The plan does not guarantee or entitle you to services. That will be based on available funding and your eligibility for specific services.

You can invite anyone to your ITP meeting. The usual people invited besides yourself and family would be your case manager from DCF if applicable, a person from your school, and any of the people who have been working directly with you. If you are found eligible for adult services with DDS or DMH they will send a staff person to attend too.

The ITP meeting is held a few months before you graduate or turn 22. The written plan will be sent to you within a few weeks for you to review and make comments. Once the plan is finalized you will be asked to sign it or reject it. If you reject the plan then it is forwarded to the Bureau of Transition for review.

Do I have to have a 688 referral in order to apply for adult services?

No. You do not have to have a 688 referral to apply for adult services. However, going through the process makes sure that the agencies have enough time to help set up a good transition plan with you and that you have sufficient time to ensure your input is communicated.

What are the benefits of 688?

If you are 688 eligible, the 688 process ensures that you work with the state agency that fits your needs best before exiting special education. The special 688 law gives you very specific time lines for planning so that you will have a smooth transition into adult services.

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