Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of developmental disorders commonly known simply as autism. Adults and children suffering from the different disorders in the autism spectrum share the same major symptoms. They encounter great difficulties with social interaction and communication, and tend to behave repetitively. However, the severity of these symptoms has a spectrum all its own.
Autism is very common, affecting one in every 68 children in the United States. Symptoms of autism can improve with age, but many autistic adults still need reliable sources of support. Naturally, this leads to the question, “does autism qualify for Social Security disability benefits?”
Does Autism Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration’s “Listing of Impairments” directly addresses autistic disorders. This is a good start, since many qualifying conditions don’t even make it onto the list.The SSA outlines how an autistic disorder can meet their “required level of severity:
A claimant must be able to provide medical evidence for the following symptoms:
Difficulties with “Reciprocal Social Interaction”
- Autistic people are often unable or unwilling to interact with those around them.
- In many cases, this is because they don’t know how. They may show an interest in talking or spending with friends and colleagues, but lack the skills or understanding to do so.
- Sometimes, they may show no desire to interact at all.
- Examples of the social difficulties an autistic person may face include the following:
- Observing others’ conversations or activities, but not joining in
- Struggling to communicate effectively or maintain conversations
- Deliberately sitting or spending time alone
- Showing no interest in having friends
Difficulties with “Verbal and Nonverbal Communication” and “Imaginative Activity”
- Autistic people often struggle to communicate, verbally and nonverbally (body language). They may also show excessively imaginative behavior.
- Examples of communication difficulties an autistic person may face include the following:
- Ignoring or misunderstanding verbal and nonverbal cues
- Unusual attention to rules – either complete disregard or obsessive following
- Unawareness of others’ emotions
- Unusual attachment to a favorite subject (they only want to talk about one thing)
“Restricted Repertoire of Activities and Interests”
- Autistic people often have very few hobbies and interests, or repeatedly engage in a particular activity.
- They may insist on doing things in a specific order or show an unusual understanding of an obscure topic.
- Autistic people may show very little interest in popular culture or trends.
The SSA requires that autistic disorders have medical evidence to qualify for disability benefits. One of the most important things this evidence can do is show how a person is limited by their condition. An autistic disorder’s effect on a person’s everyday living is the most important factor in a disability case.
In cases of adult autism, the SSA requires that the symptoms discussed above cause at least two of the following results:
“Marked Restriction of Activities of Daily Living”
- If a person can provide medical evidence that autism makes their everyday life significantly more difficult, their case is much more likely to succeed.
- Inability to work will help a disability case more than any other factor.
“Marked Difficulties in Maintaining Social Functioning”
- Autism can make it very difficult to “fit in,” for lack of a better term. A strong case will demonstrate how this negatively affects a person’s everyday life
“Marked Difficulties in Maintaining Concentration, Persistence, or Pace”
- The intellectual struggles that come with autism can affect a person’s ability to work or study. Many autistic people also have ADHD, which can intensify these effects.
“Repeated Episodes of Decompensation, Each of Extended Duration”
- An “episode of decompensation” simply refers to a period of time when a person’s condition worsens. A disability case will be stronger if it demonstrates that a claimant’s symptoms repeatedly get worse.
If you think that you or someone close to you may have an autistic disorder, meet with the necessary medical professionals. They can give a proper diagnosis and help provide evidence for a future disability case.
Who Diagnoses Autism?
There is no specific medical test for autism. However, a doctor can provide a screening checklist called the M-CHAT-R. The results of this checklist can help them decide whether to refer someone to a specialist for a closer evaluation.
If you are concerned about a child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening all children for autism between 1-and-a-half and 2 years of age.
Where Else Can I Find Help?
Social Security disability benefits can be a great financial help when dealing with an autistic disorder. Fortunately, they are not your only possibility. Several dedicated organizations provide help to those with autism.
An experienced disability lawyer can help your Social Security case. The disability claims process can be complicated and stressful, but the advice of a legal professional can minimize that stress.
At Summit Disability Law Group, we provide affordable and compassionate representation to our clients. We understand the claims process and the inner-workings of the SSA, and want to help you win your case. If you have questions about applying for benefits, let the UT SSDI Attorneys find the answer for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.