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Disability Benefits for Kids with Autism: What Parents Need to Know

February 7, 2024

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that can significantly impact a child’s ability to function in everyday life. Fortunately, there are a number of disability benefits available to children with autism that can help families offset the costs of care. In this blog post, we provide an overview of what is considered a disability by Social Security, benefits for parents caring for a disabled child, as well as how to apply for SSI disability and challenges that may arise in the process. We also provide additional resources for parents of children with autism.

Benefits for children with autism, a discussion between two people in a professional office setting.

What qualifies as a disability for a child by Social Security?

To qualify for disability benefits, a child must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability. The SSA considers a child disabled if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations that can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Disability benefits are based on the child’s functional limitations, not the diagnosis. This means that the SSA will consider how the child’s impairment affects their ability to perform age-appropriate activities such as self-care, mobility, learning, or working.

The SSA uses a list of impairments, called the Listing of Impairments, to determine if a child is disabled. The Listing of Impairments includes a variety of conditions that are considered severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. If a child’s condition does not meet the Listing of Impairments, the SSA will consider the child’s residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine if they are disabled. The RFC is the child’s ability to perform work-related activities despite their impairment.

A woman holding documents that pertain to the benefits available to a child with autism.

What benefits are available to a child with autism?

Children with autism may qualify for a range of benefits to help cover the costs of their care. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides monthly payments to individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources. To qualify for SSI, a child must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability and have household income and resources below certain limits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another federal program that provides monthly payments to disabled individuals with a sufficient work history. To qualify for SSDI, a child must meet the SSA’s definition of disability and have a parent who has worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

In addition to SSI and SSDI, children with autism may also qualify for Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid is a state-federal health insurance program that provides coverage for low-income individuals and families. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage for people age 65 and older, as well as people with certain disabilities. Children with autism may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services to help them prepare for and find work, as well as special education services.

How much does a child with autism get from SSI?

As of January 2024, the basic federal benefit rate for an individual is $943 per month, and for a couple, it is $1,415 per month. However, not everyone receives the full amount. The amount a child receives from SSI can vary based on several factors, including the family’s income, resources, and living arrangements.

For the most accurate and up-to-date figure, we recommend checking the official Social Security Administration (SSA) website or contacting the SSA directly. They provide detailed information and resources to help individuals understand their eligibility and the specific benefits they may receive.

Document being signed as a process of applying for SSI disability benefits.

How do I apply for SSI disability benefits?

To apply for SSI disability for a child with autism, you will need to complete an application form and provide supporting documentation. The application form can be found on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website. You will need to provide information about the child’s personal information, medical condition, and financial situation. You will also need to provide documentation to support your child’s claim, such as medical records, school records, and proof of income.

Once you complete the application form and gather the necessary documentation, you can submit your application to the SSA online, by mail, or in person at your local SSA office. The SSA will review your application and make a decision about whether your child is eligible for SSI disability. The SSA will then send you a letter in the mail with their decision. If your child is approved for SSI disability, you will start receiving monthly payments.

Is it hard to qualify for SSI disability benefits?

The SSI disability application process can take several months while the SSA gathers the necessary information to make a decision. As mentioned earlier, the SSA evaluates the severity of your condition, its impact on your ability to work, and your financial resources. They also consider factors such as your medical records, treatment history, and functional limitations. It’s important to provide thorough documentation and medical evidence to support your claim.

We recommend seeking assistance from professionals, such as disability advocates or attorneys, who can guide you through the process and help ensure that your application is complete and accurate.

Can a child with autism be denied SSI?

It’s important to note that not all children with autism will qualify for SSI benefits. The specific benefits that a child may qualify for will depend on their individual circumstances. If you think your child may be eligible for benefits, it’s important to apply as soon as possible. 

If your child’s disability benefits application is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process can be complex and time-consuming, but it is important to follow the steps carefully to increase your chances of success. The first step is to file a Request for Reconsideration. This must be done within 60 days of the date of the denial letter. The Request for Reconsideration should include a statement explaining why you believe the decision is incorrect, as well as any new or additional evidence that supports your child’s claim.

If the Request for Reconsideration is denied, you can file a Request for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing will be held at a Social Security office, and you will have the opportunity to present your case in person. You can also be represented by an attorney or advocate at the hearing.

After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a decision. If the ALJ finds that your child is disabled, they will award benefits. If the ALJ finds that your child is not disabled, you can appeal the decision to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is the highest level of administrative review within the Social Security Administration. If the Appeals Council denies your appeal, you can file a lawsuit in federal court.

The appeals process can be long and difficult, but there are many resources available to help you, including legal aid organizations and disability advocacy groups. If you are considering filing an appeal, it is important to contact an attorney or advocate who is experienced in representing children with disabilities. They can assist you in understanding the appeals process and protecting your child’s rights.

Additional resources for parents of children with autism

In addition to the information provided above, there are many other resources available to parents of children with autism. The Autism Society, the National Autism Association, Autism Speaks, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are all organizations that provide support and information to families of children with autism. These organizations offer a variety of resources, including: Information on autism spectrum disorder (ASD); Support groups for parents and families; Educational resources; Advocacy services; and Financial assistance.  There are a number of websites and forums where parents can connect with each other and share their experiences. 

As a member of the autism community, AngelSense is committed to developing life-changing assistive technology that is designed to meet the evolving needs of those with special needs and their caretakers.  If you are the parent of an autistic child remember that you are not alone. By reaching out for help, you can make sure that your child gets the support they need to thrive.

FAQs on Disability and Autism


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