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How A Child with Autism Can Qualify For Disability Benefits

This guest post is brought to you by Deanna Power, the Director of Outreach at Disability Benefits Help, an independent organization dedicated to helping people of all ages get the Social Security disability benefits they need. Deanna specializes in helping applicants determine if they’re medically eligible for disability via the SSA’s criteria.



If your child has autism, your family may be eligible for financial assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly disability benefits for people of all ages, including minor children. While many children with autism have no difficulty qualifying for disability benefits for medical reasons, technical eligibility is more challenging. If approved, your family could receive around $750 per month that can be spent on any of your child’s or family’s daily living needs.


Financial Income Requirements And Disability


Anyone under age 18 applying on his or her own record will only qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits.  These benefits are only offered to the most financially needy families. This means that if you or your spouse is earning a high income, your child will not be eligible for SSI due to autism. The good news here is that the bigger your family, the higher your income limits. For example, a single parent with one child cannot earn more than $38,000 (pre-tax) and still have a child qualify with autism. A two-parent family of five, however, could earn nearly $60,000. You can find your specific household income limit online.


Financial limitations are the top reason why children with autism are denied SSI benefits. The good news is that once your child turns 18, he or she will likely qualify for SSI regardless of whether your child is still living at home. Once a child is 18 the SSA no longer counts parents’ income when determining SSI thresholds.



Medical Qualifications And Autism


The SSA uses its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, when determining if an applicant is eligible for Social Security benefits. The Blue Book lists all test results or symptoms needed to be approved for disability benefits. Autism is listed as a qualifying condition in the Childhood Blue Book. To be eligible for SSI, your child must have medical documentation of both of the following:



  • Measurable deficits in verbal and non verbal communication, as well as deficits in social interactions, AND

  • Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities


Additionally, a child with autism must have “extreme” limitation in one, or noticeable limitations in any two of the following criteria:



  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information

  • Interacting with others (taking directions, playing with other children, etc.)

  • Concentrating and completing tasks

  • “Adapting oneself,” which means controlling emotions


The entire Blue Book is accessible online, so you can review the childhood autism listing with your child’s doctor to help determine if he or she has the medical evidence needed to qualify.



Starting Your Child’s SSI Application


All SSI applications must be completed in person at your closest Social Security office. There are more than 1,300 SSA offices located across the country, so you’ll likely have more than one option when scheduling an appointment. Before applying in person, be sure to review the SSA’s Child Disability Starter Kit. This online resource outlines exactly what paperwork you’ll need to have on hand to successfully apply for SSI on behalf of a child.


Helpful Resources:


SSA: https://www.ssa.gov/


Income Limits: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm


Blue Book For Autism: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/112.00-MentalDisorders-Childhood.htm#112_10


SSA Offices: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/state-social-security-disability


Child Disability Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm


SSI For Adults: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/supplemental-security-income/how-to-qualify


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8 Comments

  1. Cheri November 21, 2020 at 6:22 am - Reply

    I can understand why autistic kids get educational help and therapy, but why do they receive money? My family members have an autistic son and they don’t buy him anything different, also all therapy and education is already paid by the state. Just curious as to why they receive money on top of the state help. Thanks

  2. Kathryn April 8, 2021 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Every Autistic child is different. Some require DIFFERENT things. My son has to go to 3 different therapies alone. Requires constant supervision and special equipment that costs a lot of money. I don’t get benefits for him but I’m at a point where I have to cut back working because he for 1: needs me at home, and for 2: the stuff he needs costs way more than anything my other kids have. He has to have things like speech tablets and sensory swings which even working full time making 16/hr isn’t cutting it. I don’t know why people think the state pays for every thing. I’m at ends financially and need help. So that’s why my son needs it. So I can give him the attention he needs and still have a roof over his head and pay for the sensory and speech and etc things he needs

  3. Jen April 11, 2021 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    Hello Cheri as a mother of autistic kid, let me tell you that is different kids with autism I’m going to tell you about mine, he is 13 and he still use diapers he can’t drink any kind of milk and his food is different, he is very picky, plus his medication.Yes insurance helps but we still have to pay for medical and insurance will not pay for his food or diapers. Diapers are very expensive, not all this autistic kids need the same things other don’t need much, and other need a lot. Sometimes people judge and they don’t really know what’s going on in our lives with this Ángels. ❤️

  4. Lily A Cales May 7, 2021 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Because not all autistic kids are the same. Some require MUCH more extensive supports that are not covered by typical insurance. Some parents have to quit their jobs to care for their child, meaning less income. Once you’ve met one autistic kid, you’ve met ONE autistic kid. Generalizing won’t work here.

  5. John P Moser October 31, 2021 at 6:31 am - Reply

    Jen you say your son wears diapers so does mine I don’t know if you have Medicaid or not but if you have Medicaid Medicaid will pay for the diapers and baby wipes and bedliners disposable and washable

  6. Crystal Thompson November 2, 2021 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Not everything is paid for. There can be a lot of extra expenses such as home health equipment. Or for myself I have to travel for every therapy. These therapies are not like school sports. You can not go to them after work they are in the middle of the day several times a week. Good luck finding a FT job that works around that.Also parents of autistic children can not simply send thier kid to daycare like regular kids. They require MUCH more care.

  7. Elle December 11, 2021 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you all for correcting the dismissive and judgey comment by the first poster. As a mom to a newly-diagnosed three year old, I can literally see things racking up cost-wise. The program through the school system that is low-cost/free has a SIX MONTH WAITING LIST for services. What do I do in the meantime? I’m separated from my husband and have to get creative with ways to get as many hours as I can at work while still caring for my daughter. Not to mention that I have two older children. My daughter needs level 3 support and everyone has a waitlist, doesn’t work with the insurance or cost thousands a month. Even if someone thinks that their family members don’t have to buy anything different, they still probably don’t know the things they aren’t being told. It takes a toll on parents. Try to be more empathetic before thinking that there isn’t a scenario where a family needs financial assistance for their child.

  8. candice bailey June 2, 2022 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    I am a mother with a autistic son. I am seeking help because with all the therapy he goes to i am unable to work. my family is struggling because there isnt a second income coming into our household.

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