Disability for Autism and Asperger’s
“Are disability benefits available for autism or Asperger’s?”
It’s a question we hear often as North Carolina disability lawyers. In this article, we’ll discuss Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome — what they are, and under what conditions Social Security disability benefits may be available.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the general term for a set of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect a person’s ability to interact appropriately with others and engage in normal activities of daily living. ASD also includes the more specific impairment called Asperger’s Syndrome. It is one of the more common mental health conditions in our society. One recent estimate put the number of people in the US who carry an ASD diagnosis at over 5 million, or a little over 2% of the population.
Symptoms of autism and Asperger’s can also include things like rocking back and forth, hand flapping, and a compulsive need to have the physical environment arranged a certain way. These disorders can range from relatively minor to profoundly severe. If your child’s autism or Asperger’s symptoms are sufficiently disruptive to his or her life, or if your (adult) symptoms are severe enough to keep you from working, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Social Security Disability for Autism and Asperger’s
Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are typically diagnosed in children as they reach school age, so they often become the topic of SSI claims for minors (under age 18). These “child SSI” claims are different than SSD claims for adults because the child’s family must have very limited financial means to qualify at all for SSI benefits for the child.
Once the family’s financial eligibility is established, the medical and mental health records showing the existence of the disorder are examined.
Disability for Children with Autism or Asperger’s
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a special section in its “Listing of Impairments” for Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. It lays out the specific criteria that have to be proven by treatment records in order to qualify for disability benefits.
In order to qualify for disability for autism, you must be able to document the child’s behaviors in areas like:
- Deficits in social interaction
- Deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication; and
- Restricted or compulsive behavior patterns like arm flapping or hyper-interest in a specific subject.
Once these things are documented, you must also prove that the child’s functioning is severely limited in certain specified “domains” of functioning, such as:
- Understanding, remembering and using information;
- Interacting with others;
- Focusing on and completing activities (things like school work); and
- Managing oneself (like personal hygiene)
If a child’s symptoms do not technically meet the requirements of the Listing, they can still qualify for SSI benefits if they functionally equal the Listing. This provision is designed to prevent the denial of benefits to a child who is just as limited in his or her ability to engage in typical daily activities but still doesn’t meet the very specific Listing provisions.
Disability for Adults with Autism or Asperger’s
Disability claims by adults based on autism or Asperger’s are analyzed under a slightly different set of guidelines. The adult’s eligibility must first be established. He or she must have already worked enough to have paid into the system over a long enough period of time (generally, at least several years) to qualify for SSDI benefits.
An adult with ASD who has already worked for a period of years in a very specific job that can accommodate his or her symptoms, but then loses that job, could find him or herself in this position.
Once eligibility or “insured status” is established, the same general guidelines apply as set forth above; you must either prove that you meet the technical requirements of the Listing, or that your set of symptoms is medically equivalent to them. You can show medical equivalence by proving that your Residual Functional Capacity or “RFC” (your ability to do the things a person must do to get and hold a job) is so compromised by your ASD that you can no longer get or hold a job.
Related Anxiety, Depression, and Mental Health Disorders
Adults with ASD often develop depression and anxiety from the difficulties they face engaging with the outside world. The symptoms of anxiety and depression can make the disabling effects of ASD that much worse. The Social Security Administration has an obligation to consider ALL of these disabling symptoms when calculating your RFC for purposes of applying their rules to your case.
Are You Seeking Disability for Autism or Asperger’s?
Disability claims based on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome can be difficult to prove, as are all mental health-based claims. The assistance of an experienced, skilled disability lawyer – especially one who is Board-Certified as a Specialist – can make the difference between approval and denial.
Research shows that those who hire an attorney are nearly 3 times as likely to receive approval for disability benefits as those who represent themselves.
For a FREE consultation concerning a potential disability claim for autism or Asperger’s, please call our North Carolina disability lawyers at 1-800-525-7111.
You can also use the convenient form below if you prefer. Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s review your claim.
“I would recommend Riddle & Brantley to anyone who needs help with disability.”
–B. Fields, Riddle & Brantley client
Our disability team is led by attorney Scott Scurfield, a Board-Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability, who has helped hundreds of North Carolinians get the disability benefits they need and deserve.
Don’t gamble with the benefits you need and deserve.
If you or a loved one struggle with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome, call 1-800-525-7111 for a FREE, no-obligation consultation with a North Carolina disability lawyer.
There is no cost for the consultation and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive disability for autism or Asperger’s.
Justice Counts for North Carolinians with disabilities and we would love to help however we can.
*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.