Social Security & Autism
A special article on qualifying for benefits | By guest author Mark Steele
Receiving a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), whether for yourself or a loved one, can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are Social Security benefits available to adults who cannot work because of ASD, as well as for the parents of children who need special care and attention because of autism. Having support is critical for individuals and families with special needs and knowing how to qualify for benefits can make a big difference.
Social Security Basics
- If you are an adult and you expect that you will be unable to work for at least 12 months, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits.
- If you are the parent of a child that has been diagnosed with autism, and you cannot work because of the care that your child needs, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income for your child to provide money that can help make ends meet when you can’t work.
Applying for Autism Benefits
Whether you’re applying for yourself or your child, the best way to apply for Social Security benefits is to do it in person. This way, a staff member can directly help with the application and qualifying requirements, and their guidance can take some pressure off you. Find your local SSA office and make an appointment. When you go to your appointment, bring any medical documentation that you have as well as your financial information if you’re applying for SSI benefits for your child.
Qualifying for Benefits
You can get a full list of the qualifying conditions for Social Security benefits listed in the Blue Book. Although there are separate listings for children and adults, the medical requirements to qualify for benefits due to autism are actually the same for both! In order to medically qualify for Social Security benefits, adults with ASD must be able to show that they have extreme limitations when it comes to daily living activities, and must be able to document that they have:
- Measurable difficulty with any form of communication and social interaction
- Significantly restricted interests and hobbies, or patterns of repetitive behavior
Parents who have a child with autism must also qualify financially in order to receive SSI benefits. There is an income cap that must be met in order to be eligible, which is based on the number of adults working full time in the household. You will need to submit financial documents, including W-2s or two years of Federal tax returns, in order to prove your income.
Additionally, you must be able to show that you or your child has at least one severe limitation or two marked limitations in the following areas:
- Thinking and communication difficulties – documented through psychological and language/communication tests
- Severe impairment in age-appropriate functioning – documented through extensive parental, teacher, and/or doctor or other caregiver statements, and/or through standardized tests
- Marked restrictions in personal functioning, including the ability to feed, bathe, dress, or otherwise care for him or herself – documented again through statements from others and/or through standardized testing methods
- Pronounced difficulties with concentration, follow-through, or the paces at which tasks are completed
The difference between a “marked” and “severe” limitation can be a subjective one. In general, marked means that it is noticeable and documented, but not life altering in every single activity that the individual does. Severe is a significant and insurmountable challenge.
If you’re looking to find additional support for yourself, your child or a loved one, there are many resources you can access that can help. Finding those available resources that fit your needs can certainly be tough at times, but with a community of family, friends, care teams and advocates behind you, it can somehow feel much easier.
This article was provided by Mark Steele and Disability-Benefits-Help.org, an independent website that helps people of all ages through the Social Security process. Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments to Mark at [email protected].