How Does Autism Limit Ability to Work?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a mental disorder—more specifically a developmental disability—that is brought about by differences in the brain. There are 5 major types of autism that fall under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders. These types of autism include Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Kanner’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified), and childhood disintegrative disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are marked by an unusual preoccupation with yourself leading to the detriment of communication, the ability to imagine, and the ability to interact socially with others. Obviously, adults who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a difficult time performing any kind of work which requires receiving any kind of instructions or paying attention for extended periods of time.

Sometimes those who suffer from an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are able to adjust to work environments. This is especially true of those with higher functioning conditions such as Asperger Syndrome. Statistically, however, most adults with an ASD are not able to work full time in meaningful employment or to live on their own unassisted. Even with significant attempts made to encourage employers to create environments in which adults on the ASD spectrum can perform meaningful work, only about 6% of adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are able to maintain full time employment.

The cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is unknown, though it is believed to be genetic. Early detection is key in treating an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When ASD is detected early, it can be treated medically and therapeutically. While a child with an ASD who receives treatment has a much better chance of being able to function independently as an adult, the chances are still relatively thin.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as a condition which can be considered a complete disability both in children and adults. To receive Social Security Disability benefits as an adult, it must be shown that the adult who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is incapable of performing any work which is available to someone of his level of education and training or for which he could reasonably be trained.

Receiving Social Security Disability benefits as a child who has Autism is not a guarantee that you will qualify for Social Security Disability benefits as an adult. Your Social Security Disability diary will be opened when you turn 18 and your case will be reconsidered. It is in your best interests to be represented by a Social Security Disability lawyer or other representative in all claims and appeals proceedings. Someone who is able to represent himself at a Social Security Disability hearing is unlikely to be considered severely affected enough by autism to preclude meaningful work.

Is Autism A Disability

Yes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers autism to be a disability that is eligible for disability benefits so long as the autistic applicant can meet the proper requirements for the condition. Autism is also considered to be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

Is High-Functioning Autism Considered A Disability

Generally speaking, autism is considered to be a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA) so long as an applicant can meet the symptom/condition criteria outlined in the SSA's Blue Bookas well as the respective program-specific requirements for each disability benefits program, respectively. For the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program (also referred to as “disability benefits”), an autistic applicant must be able to prove that, in addition to meeting the Blue Book’s requirements for autism, they have (1) earned enough work credits and (2) are unable to work for at least 12 months to qualify and get approved for this type of disability by the SSA. For the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits program, an autistic applicant must be able to prove that their income is below the income cap set forth by the SSA in addition to meeting the Blue Book requirements for Autism in order to ultimately qualify and get approved for this disability program.

Further Reading: What Is SSI?

High-functioning autism (HFA) is an unofficial medical term used to refer to people who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who can live independently—meaning that, despite having symptoms of autism, their behaviors / symptoms don’t significantly interfere with their relationships, school, or work, and they can handle basic life skills (e.g., dressing themselves and eating), speak, write, and read. Said differently, HFA is an autism classification in which an individual may exhibit deficits in emotion expression and recognition, social interaction, and communication, but exhibits no intellectual disability. Conversely, low-functioning autism (LFA) is the unofficial term used to describe people who have an ASD that cannot live independently (i.e., experience an inability to conduct daily life) brought about by certain behaviors (e.g., difficulties with social interaction and communication, differences in emotional or social reciprocity, and challenging behavior) of ASD.

Autism and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

Autism does not directly affect your ability to perform physical tasks, but it does generally affect your ability to concentrate on those tasks or to receive the instructions needed to learn new tasks in the first place. While this is sometimes overcome for those with milder autistic spectrum disorders in workplaces where supervisors are trained to deal with employees with autistic disorders, many adults with autism are unable to perform any kind of substantial gainful activity. To be considered completely disabled by autism for Social Security Disability purposes, you must meet the following criteria from the Blue Book:

  • Obvious and significant impairment in social function.
  • Obvious and significant impairment in concentrating.
  • Obvious and significant impairment in comprehending communication or communicating.
  • Obvious and significant impairment in cognitive functioning.

Autism and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

In some cases, it is simpler for adults who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to prove that they are incapable of performing sedentary work, as this kind of work typically involves concentration or interaction with other people. By definition, an adult who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has great difficulty being able to perform this kind of work.

Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will nearly always require assistance to apply for SSDI, especially if their initial claim is denied and the appeals process becomes necessary. Seek a Social Security Disability lawyer who has experience winning Social Security Disability claims for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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