Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States. This disorder causes difficulties with social interaction, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and a wide variety of behavioral challenges. In severe cases, a child with ASD can require around the clock care to ensure their safety, health, and general well-being. In these situations, a parent often becomes the dedicated caregiver, staying out of the workforce and focusing solely on meeting the emotional and physical needs of their child.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the financial strain that this can cause on a family. Parents of children with severe ASD who are struggling to make ends meet can apply for cash disability benefits (SSI) on their child’s behalf. This is a needs-based program, meaning that the child and parents must have limited income and resources. In addition to meeting the financial requirements, parents also must demonstrate through medical evidence that their child is unable to engage in age-appropriate social interactions and has significant difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communications. The child must also have deficits in imaginative activity and self-restrict to a limited range of activities and interests.

Navigating the application process can be confusing and time consuming for parents whose energies must be directed elsewhere. The process is multi-leveled with the majority of applicants being denied repeatedly. The ideal time for parents to involve an attorney in their case is directly after receiving the first denial letter. Our firm recently represented a child with severe delays requiring continuous one-on-one care. His parents had applied for disability benefits on his behalf, but his initial application denied. We successfully won the case on a reconsideration appeal, and succeeded in securing an early disbursement of monies to cover his significant outstanding medical expenses.

Although approvals early in the process are rare, the odds of receiving benefits at this level are significantly increased when parents have a professional advocating for them. An attorney can also advise on compliance with the reporting requirements to avoid the interruption or ceasing of benefits once they are awarded.