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Autism and Social Security Disability

Autism is estimated to affect anywhere from three to six children out of every 1,000 living in the United States, and that number may be going up. Experts estimate that the occurrence of autism has increased tenfold over the past decade. The limitations caused by an autistic condition can create significant financial hardships for the individual's family. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be able to offset some of the financial burden caused by the condition. If you or someone you know is living with autism, you may be wondering how the condition affects an individual's eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. The following information can help you understand the Social Security Disability application process and how the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews disability claims based on an autistic condition.

Autism - Condition and Symptoms

The disorders that fall into the autism spectrum are characterized by difficulties with communication, social impairments and specific patterns of behavior. The most severe disorder in this spectrum is referred to as autism, classical ASD or autistic disorder. Other forms of autism, such as Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder are also forms of autism, but are less severe.

Autism is almost always diagnosed during childhood and usually by the age of three. Children who have autism normally display the common symptoms of the condition, such as impaired social functioning, withdrawn behavior, a lack of empathy, repetitive movements, the inability to understand social cues, delayed speech development and self-abusive behaviors. Children with autism are also at a higher risk of having Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, epilepsy, learning disabilities, ADD and Tourette syndrome. Studies show that as many as 30 percent of the children who are diagnosed with autism will go on to experience epileptic seizures by the time they become adults.

In some situations autism can be difficult to diagnose. When diagnosing the condition, doctors will often use questionnaires and other screening tools in an effort to gather information about the child's behavior and developmental history. The observations of parents and medical professionals are also used together to help diagnose a child with the condition. Neurological assessments and cognitive tests are normally conducted in order to determine the severity of the condition.

If a child is diagnosed with autism he or she should undergo psychotherapy treatment and special education classes in order to help manage the condition. There is no cure for autism, but proper care and treatment can help manage the symptoms and teach the child proper coping techniques and behaviors.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Autism

Every Social Security Disability application that is received by the SSA is reviewed very carefully. When an application for disability benefits is made based on an autistic condition, the examiner reviewing the disability claim will refer to the SSA's “Blue Book” of listed disabling impairments. Autism is covered in this published listing of impairments under Section 112.10.

It is important to understand that this section of the guidelines pertains to children who are applying for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are an adult who is applying for disability benefits based on autism, it may be more difficult to obtain the benefits you are entitled to. It is not, however, impossible to do so. You will just need enough evidence proving that the condition is severe enough to prevent you from performing substantial gainful work activity.

In order to provide the SSA with enough evidence, you will need to provide a complete medical history as well as other documentation. School records, psychotherapy documentation and statements from treating physicians and other medical professionals can help support your claim for Social Security Disability benefits.

Autism and Your Social Security Disability Case

In severe cases of autism it is not uncommon for an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits to be approved. In cases that are not so straightforward, however, an appeal may be necessary. The SSA only approves 30 percent of the disability claims received each year. The other 70 percent are denied at the initial stage of the application process and applicants must go on to file an appeal in order to receive the Social Security Disability benefits they need.

If you are applying for disability benefits or have already been denied, you should consider consulting with a Social Security Disability attorney who is familiar with autism disability cases. Chances are that you will need to appear before an administrative law judge at an appeal hearing if your initial application for benefits is denied. Statistics indicate that your chances of receiving a favorable decision at all stages of the Social Security Disability process are increased with proper legal representation.