Autism and Social Security Disability: Do I Qualify?

Published on: August 5, 2020

Autism is not one disorder, but the name of a broad range of serious developmental conditions. About 1 in 54 children are born with autism, but this disorder can reveal itself in numerous ways. Since autism spectrum disorder is a range of different subtypes, people with autism can all experience different strengths and challenges. While some people with autism are high skilled, others may be several challenged.

Some adults are prevented from holding a job and earning a living due to the severity of their autism. If this is the case, you may be wondering about the relationship between autism and Social Security disability benefits. For instance, if you or a loved one in your family has autism, would you qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

Does Autism Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits? 

Developmental disorders such as autism can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. While adults with autism can qualify for both SSDI and SSI programs, children with the condition may only be qualified to receive SSI benefits.  

Eligibility for benefits due to autism is determined by medical records. According to the SSA’s Blue Book, medical evidence must prove the condition is severe enough to cause:

  • Severe deficits with social interaction and both verbal and nonverbal communication. 
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors and activities. 

In addition, there must be an extreme limitation of one or more of the following mental functioning:

Childhood Autism & Disability Benefits 

As previously mentioned, children with autism can only be eligible for receiving SSI benefits. To be eligible for benefits, children one through three must meet at least one of these requirements. Children between the ages of three and eighteen must meet at least two:

  • Communication difficulties demonstrated through psychological and language tests
  • Severe impairment in age-appropriate functioning and with children of the same age 
  • Limited ability feed, bathe, dress, or otherwise care for him or herself
  • Difficulties with concentrating on tasks and the pace of which tasks are completed

These requirements must be documented by teachers, parents, doctors or caregiver statements, as well as through standardized tests.

Filing for Social Security Disability With Autism

When applying for disability benefits for yourself, or on behalf of an adult or child with autism, it’s vital that you collect as much documentation as possible. This manifests itself through medical records and doctors’ statements so your claim will have plenty of substantial evidence to support it. 

Applying for disability benefits essentially communicates to the SSA that you or your loved one cannot care for themselves and earn a living due to the severity of your or their autism. Statements from friends, family members, caregivers, teachers, and others can help substantiate that the condition is developmentally limiting enough to be eligible for help. Additionally, following up on your application with financial records as well can help your claim. Paystubs or other income-related documents can help prove your case that you’re in need of disability benefits. 

What to Do if Autism SSI or SSDI is Denied?

If your disability benefits application is denied, do not give up hope. More than half of all applicants are denied benefits their first time applying. 

If you act quickly to appeal the SSA’s determination and gather more medical evidence for your disability, you can reverse the SSA’s decision and receive the full benefits you deserve. The sooner you act, the better your chances will be of overturning your denial.  Contact a disability professional as soon as possible to help overturn initial determinations so you can receive the SSDI compensation you need. A disability advocate will walk you through the appeal process every step of the way and help guide your determination appeal to make a difference for your case.


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