Adult Decision Making Decoded

February 15, 2022

Assisting adults with autism as they make decisions is not always a straightforward path. The path often branches when trying to decide what is the best decision-making arrangement between the family and the individual with autism. It can be hard to decide among the three most common options – supported decision-making, power of attorney (POA), and guardianship – and each has its own pros and cons.

Ideally, these discussions about how the individual with autism makes decisions should be had before he or she turns 18. However, these options can be explored at any point during a loved one’s adult life.

Supported Decision-Making
Power of Attorney
Is the Arrangement Legally Binding?
Is a Court Appearance Required to Establish or Modify the Arrangement?

  • Supported decision-making is a combination of understandings, relationships, and arrangements designed to help individuals make decisions about their lives and communicate those decisions to the people and institutions around them. It is flexible but informal and is not legally binding. There are no laws in New Jersey defining what a supported decision-making arrangement can or should look like.
  • Guardianship, on the other hand, is a rigid and formal arrangement and the process of obtaining it is more rigorous.
  • Power of attorney offers a legally binding document that appoints an agent to act on behalf of an individual (the principal). It can serve as a middle ground between the two. There are several different types of POA, and the process is less time consuming and less expensive than obtaining guardianship. Unlike guardianship, power of attorney does not require a visit to court to obtain or revoke it.

Do you want more information about adult decision making? Are you having a hard time understanding the different options available to you or a loved one? Call our 800.4.AUTISM Helpline or email us at Our knowledgeable, compassionate helpline team members are here to help!