Skip to main content

Social Security Benefits for Autism

Is Autism Considered an Emotional Disability?

Many people are familiar with the word “autism” and what the condition means, but there are actually a variety of disabilities that fall on what is called the autism spectrum disorder. Each disability on the spectrum has some characteristics in common; therefore, for consistency, this article will refer to all of them under the broad category of autism. You may qualify for disability benefits through Social Security, either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if you suffer from autism.

One of the ways to qualify for benefits through Social Security is if you can prove that your disability meets the criteria in Social Security’s Blue Book listing. To meet the listing, your condition must demonstrate the following: 1) impaired communication skills (verbal or non-verbal); 2) an inability to participate in imaginative or creative activities or thoughts; 3) pronounced difficulty interacting socially, especially in reciprocating or responding; and 4) limited interest and participation in varying activities.

Depending on your age, additional requirements must be met to qualify for benefits. If the autistic individual is a child between one and three years old, he or she must show one of the following characteristics: 1) severe impairment in age-appropriate functioning, documented through extensive teacher, parental, and/or doctor or other caregiver statements and/or through standardized tests; 2) pronounced difficulties with concentration, follow-through, or pace with which he or she completes tasks; 3) marked restrictions in personal functioning, including the ability to dress, feed, bathe, or otherwise care for himself or herself, as documented by statements from others or through standardized testing methods; or 4) marked difficulties in communication and thinking, documented through psychological and language/communication tests. If the autistic individual is a child between three and eighteen years old, he or she must show two of the above characteristics.

Once the autistic individual turns eighteen, he or she must demonstrate two of the following characteristics: 1) trouble concentrating on and completing tasks at a reasonable pace; 2) difficulty interacting socially for any length of time; 3) limitations in activities of daily living; or 4) repeated and lengthy episodes of decompensation (times at which symptoms are more pronounced)

If the autistic individual is a child, he or she can only qualify for SSI benefits, and those benefits have financial criteria that must be met on top of demonstrating the disability itself. To apply, the child must meet with someone who works for Social Security.

If the autistic individual is an adult, he or she may qualify for SSDI or SSI or both. Even in mild forms, autism can make it difficult or impossible for an adult to work and earn a living. The application can be completed online.

Regardless of who the applicant is, you should collect as many medical records as possible because the more thoroughly you document your disability, the higher the likelihood that your disability will be clear to Social Security and qualify you for benefits. Social Security will consider a number of factors in determining whether you are disabled, including your age, education level, type of work you’ve done, strength of your medical evidence, severity of symptoms, and the effectiveness of your treatment options.