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Our society is much more aware of autism spectrum disorders than it ever has been. With Autism Awareness Month, internet lists of celebrities thought to live with autism (including Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, and Courtney Love), and countless benefits seeking to raise awareness for Autism spectrum disorders, common characteristics of autism are well known. With this increase in knowledge and awareness, it has become more evident that people living with autism can lead functional and productive lives, provided they receive the appropriate support. For those children and adults living with autism who find it difficult to function or sustain work, Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits may be available. Those who qualify for disability benefits tend to have more profound deficits in socialization and communication.
Social Security evaluates autism under the Mental Disorders section of their Adult and Childhood Listing of Impairments, also known as the Bluebook. The specific listing is titled Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders. The applicant must meet or equal the criteria outlined in the listing, or alternatively, demonstrate an inability to sustain any competitive employment (adult standard), or have symptoms that result in marked limitations in two domains of functioning or an extreme limitation in one domain (childhood standard). Examples of these domains include attending and completing tasks; moving about and manipulating objects; and health and physical well-being. Similarly, to meet the criteria outlined in the Adult Listing of Impairments, the government must also find that the symptoms result in a marked restriction in at least two of the following, or an extreme limitation in at least one of the following: understand, remember, or apply information; interact with others; concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; or adapt and manage oneself.
A child, a disabled adult child, or an adult with an insufficient work history may qualify for SSI, a need-based benefit that requires that the claimant is both disabled and financially eligible.
A disabled adult child may apply for benefits on a parent’s wage record, known as Disabled Adult Child benefits (DAC). The parent(s) must be disabled, retired, or deceased and must have worked long enough in a job that withheld Social Security taxes. However, to qualify, the disabled adult must prove to Social Security that their symptoms from their impairments prevented them from working prior to age 22.
An adult with sufficient work credits on their own wage record can apply for DIB and receive a monthly benefit based on their individual earnings record. In some cases, the disabled adult’s children can receive a benefit of up to half of the primary benefit. Many people call and ask how they can determine their benefit amount. If you have not received a statement from Social Security recently, you fortunately don’t have to guess what your benefit will be—you can estimate your benefits using Social Security’s online benefits calculator, or you can obtain your most statement by signing in or creating an account on my Social Security.
For a disability case involving autism, the most important evidence in an adult or child claim is that of a psychological evaluation, or in some cases, a neuropsychological evaluation. This assessment will be documented proof of the severity of symptoms, and show how those symptoms impact the individual’s ability to relate to and function within the world around them. These evaluations and evidence of ongoing psychological treatment provide the exact type of evidence that Social Security looks for in deciding a disability claim: concrete insight into how the impairment affects the child’s ability to function as compared to a child of the same age, or how it affects the adult claimant’s ability to sustain the demands of a regular work schedule.
Children living with autism often will also have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is a written statement designed to meet the needs of a student whom the school assessed as requiring extra services to meet their educational goals. It is developed by a team of teachers, therapists, school administrators and other support service staff who provide a detailed description of what the school will do to accommodate the student’s needs. These plans often change as the student’s needs evolve. We strongly encourage parents to closely communicate with their child’s school to explain and document any changes in their child’s needs.
At Nash Disability Law we know that applying for Social Security Disability can be overwhelming, and because symptoms of autism can vary, these cases can be highly complex and difficult to explain. Our exclusive focus on Social Security Disability has provided us with extensive experience in helping clients and family members of clients to navigate the system and gain approval for their DIB, SSI or DAC benefits. If you or a loved one need help making sense of the disability benefits available for autism, complete our simple online form and our office will call you. Consultations can be done either over the phone or in one of our three offices, Chicago Loop, Elgin, or Palos Hills. Even better, call our Chicagoland disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law for help with your Social Security Disability claim: 312-561-3546. The consultation is always free, and there is no fee unless your claim is successful.