Social Security Benefits for Children with Autism

By Molly Clarke of Social Security Disability Help

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Parenting a child who has autism often comes with a unique set of challenges. Among these is the challenge of finding the best types of therapy and supportive care for your child. Unfortunately, the costs associated with medical attention and therapy can be difficult to manage—especially if you’ve had to take time away from work.

If you find yourself facing circumstances such as these, your child may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a type of disability benefit offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and can be used to help cover your child’s daily expenses.

Continue reading to learn how to qualify and apply for SSI benefits on behalf of your child.

Disability Definition

To receive SSI benefits, all children must meet the following criteria:

  • Is not working at a job considered to be substantial work; and
  • Has a physical or mental condition (or a combination of conditions) that seriously limits his or her ability to participate in age-appropriate activities; and
  • The condition(s) has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 1 year or is expected to result in death.

These three criteria make up the SSA’s official definition of childhood disability. If your child is not disabled according to this definition, he or she is unlikely to be awarded benefits.

Requirements for SSI Benefits

SSI is a benefit program intended to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals who earn very little income. The SSI program has strict financial requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify. In the case of a child applicant, the SSA will evaluate his or her eligibility based on a portion of a parent(s) or guardian’s income. SSI best suits children over any other federal disability benefit program because there are no age, work, or tax-related eligibility requirements.

To learn more about SSI financial requirements and deeming visit the following page: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm.

Medical Eligibility

The SSA maintains a guidebook of conditions designated to be disabling. This guidebook is typically referred to as the Blue Book and is split into two sections—one for adults and one for children. To qualify medically, all applicants must meet the requirements listed under the section designated for their condition.

A child with autism will need to meet the criteria under 112.00—Autistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders. This listing states that to qualify for disability benefits, your child must show significant deficits in the following areas:

  • Reciprocal social interaction
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Imaginative activity

Your child must also demonstrate:

  • Markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests

This listing also states that, depending on your child’s age, he or she must demonstrate a combination of developmental delays in the following areas:

  • Gross or fine motor development;
  • Cognitive and communication functioning;
  • Social functioning; and/or
  • Personal functioning.

It is highly recommended that you look at the Blue Book listing to become familiar with the specific requirements that your child must meet.  Access this listing, here: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/112.00-MentalDisorders-Childhood.htm#112_10.

The Application Process

A child’s initial application for SSI benefits will consist of several forms and an in-person interview with an SSA representative.  To begin, you should call the SSA immediately to schedule your interview appointment. This is because there may be a backlog of interviews and the next available appointment may not be for several months.

While you wait for your appointment, gather all the necessary documentation. This will include financial information and medical records proving that your child meets both the technical and medical requirements for SSI benefits.

The application and approval process can take several months or longer. If the SSA denies your child’s claim, you are allowed to file an appeal. It is important to note that if you plan to file an appeal, it must be initiated within 60 days of receiving a denial. Although receiving a denial can be discouraging, you should not give up. The application process is difficult, but if your child needs the assistance, it is a necessary step toward being awarded benefits.

For information about applying for benefits on behalf of an individual over the age of 18, visit the following page: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/autism-and-social-security-disability.