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Can Autism qualify for disability benefits?

The SSA recognizes autism spectrum disorder as an impairment in its Blue Book. An applicant who meets the requirements may qualify for disability benefits.


Can I qualify for Social Security disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of autism?

The Centers for Disease Control has reported that in 2018 autism occurred in one out of every 59 births. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s speech, nonverbal communication, and social skills. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it includes a wide range of linked conditions that are similar or may be caused by the same mechanism. It occurs in all ethnic, racial and economic groups.

Disability benefits for autism

The SSA recognizes autism spectrum disorder as an impairment in its Blue Book. An applicant who meets the requirements may qualify for disability benefits.

Signs and symptoms of ASD usually appear by age two or three, but can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

People with autism may have sensory issues and extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, smells and sensations.

A child with autism may not reach certain developmental milestones; for example:

  •    Not smiling and limited eye contact by 6 months
  •   Not responding to their name and little or no babbling by 12 months
  •   Not showing interest in objects or activities by pointing by 12 months

Children or adult with ASD may exhibit any of the following behaviors, but not all people with autism will show all of these behaviors:

  •    Getting upset by a slight change in routine
  •   Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  •   Have little or inconsistent eye contact
  •   Repeat words or phrases over and over (this is known as “echolalia”)
  •   Talking at length about a subject without noticing that others are not interested
  •   Answering questions with unrelated answers
  •   Have an unusual tone of voice that might be sing-song or robot-like
  •   Have obsessive interests
  •   Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  •   Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
  •   Have a preference for solitude

Each individual with autism experiences different challenges and has different strengths.

People with autism tend to be strong visual and auditory learners with the ability to learn and remember detailed information. They may excel in math, science or art. There are three types of autism spectrum disorder:

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Autism. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

Autistic Disorder or “Classic” Autism.

This type of autism is characterized by language delays, social communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with classic autism also have an intellectual disability.

Asperger Syndrome.

This type of ASD presents milder symptoms. A person with Asperger Syndrome may be very intelligent and handle their daily life well, but experience social challenges. They do not have difficulty with language or have an intellectual disability.

Pervasive Development Disorder or PDD.

Also known as “atypical autism” individuals with PDD have symptoms more severe than Asperger’s syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder and may only cause social and communication challenges.

The causes and risks for ASD include biological, environmental and genetic factors and there is some evidence that the period before birth is critical for developing ASD.

Children with a parent or sibling with ASD are more likely to develop autism as are people with certain chromosome disorders such as Down Syndrome or Fragile X syndrome. Also, some drugs taken during pregnancy such as thalidomide and valproic acid may cause ASD.

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Though not curable, early diagnosis of ASD can make a big difference in outcome.

Treatment of ASD depends on an individual’s needs, but the goal is always to reduce symptoms and facilitate learning and development. A variety of treatments may be employed including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavior therapy. Often people with ASD have other medical conditions such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances which must be managed.

It is estimated that one-third of people with autism do not develop the speech and communication skills needed to perform daily life tasks.

The Social Security Administration recognizes autism spectrum disorder as an impairment in Section 12.10 of its Blue Book.

In order to qualify for SSDI under this listing a person must show:

  2. Medical documentation of both of the following:

    1.   Qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction; and
    2.   Significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

  4. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):

    1.    Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2.   Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3.   Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4.   Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).

Adults may apply for SSI or SSDI, but SSDI is available only to individuals whose work history includes jobs where taxes were paid.

An adult child between the ages of 18 and 22 can apply for SSDI based on their parents’ earning record. Adults who do not meet the requirements of the listing may be approved for SSDI based on their inability to work, known as a Medical Vocational Allowance.

If you have autism spectrum disorder and it has affected your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.

More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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