Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, affects more than 1 in 54 children in the U.S. For parents a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder often means that they need to make a big lifestyle change. There are therapies and treatments that can be very helpful to kids with Autism but in order to create a comprehensive therapy and care program often one parent will have to quit work and be the one in charge of keeping track of the child’s care.
This can cause financial turmoil for the household because many households rely on two incomes to get by and Autism therapies and treatments are usually expensive. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a benefits program that can help parents cover the costs of the child’s care and living expenses. Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits, can ease that financial burden and allow one parent to focus solely on the child’s care.
Qualifying For SSI Benefits
The Social Security Administration has strict requirements that must be met in order for children to qualify for SSI benefits. All of those requirements are listed by condition in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is searchable online. The listing for Autism Spectrum Disorder says that in order to be eligible for benefits children with Autism must have:
- deficits in social interaction
- deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and
- significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
There must be medical documentation proving that the child has all three of those deficits. The child must also have an extreme limitation in one of these areas, or a severe limitation in two of these 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
The parents will need to provide as much medical documentation as possible to prove that the child meets these requirements so that the child will be eligible for SSI benefits.
The parents must also qualify before the child can receive benefits. The total income of all the adults in the household that work full time cannot exceed the income cap set by the SSA. The income cap increases with every adult in the household that earns wages. You will have to submit financial documentation like a W-2 or a Federal tax return for each working adult in the house to prove their income.
Starting A Claim
Don’t wait to start a claim for SSI benefits for your child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. The process can take months so you should get a claim filed as soon as you can. To file a claim for SSI benefits for a child you will need to make an appointment at your local SSA office. At the appointment a staff member will help you fill out and fill the claim forms.
Medical Documentation: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/acceptable-medical-source
Income Limits: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm