The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. Children with autism may be eligible for SSI disability benefits if their family’s income and assets aren’t above the SSI limits. An adult with autism can apply for SSI or SSDI. However, SSDI is available only to those with a work history from jobs that paid Social Security taxes. An “adult child” of a parent receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, meaning a child over the age of 18 who has had autism before turning age 22, can get SSDI benefits on the earning record of the parent. A child may quality for disability benefits from birth to age 18 under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The SSI program is based on a lower family income allowable limit. Families who are eligible to receive Medicaid and/or Food Stamps may fall within the allowable income limit.
When a child becomes 18, he or she is legally adult and the income and resources of family members do not count when deciding whether an adult meets the financial limits for SSI. Only the adult’s income and resources are considered (which is usually nothing).
The process is a long one, and will require a lot of documentation to back up your claims. Social Security will look to see if deficits in social interaction
deficits, verbal and nonverbal communication, and significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities are documented as well as if individual’s functioning is severely limited by autism. Social Security will require that all of the following are documented in a child’s medical records. The child must either have an extreme limitation in one of the following areas or a “marked” (severe) limitation in two of the following areas:
- understanding, remembering, or using information (ability to learn, remember, and use information, follow instructions, solve problems, use reason to make decisions)
- interacting with others (ability to engage in interactive play, cooperate with others, maintain friendships, handle conflicts, initiate or sustain conversation, understand social cues)
- focusing on activities (ability to engage in activities at a consistent pace, avoid distractions, complete tasks in timely manner), and
- adapting or managing oneself (ability to regulate emotions, control behavior, protect oneself from harm, maintain personal hygiene).
After you apply and submit the required paperwork, the Social Security Administration will then send you a letter stating whether your disability claim has been Accepted or Denied. You may request a Hearing should you disagree with their Decision. It is not uncommon for families to be denied the first time they apply. If you need additional assistance, please see the resource below.