Talk to a top lawyer for free

Is Autism a Disability? How to Get Benefits

Is autism a disability that qualifies for benefits? Yes, if you meet the right criteria. Find out how.

evident Editorial Team
November 16, 2023
autism, letters, disability

You may be entitled to benefits if your autism condition significantly interferes with your capacity to work or care for yourself. The Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes autism as a mental disorder that is considered a qualifying condition for benefits if it meets specific medical criteria outlined by the SSA.

However, securing Social Security disability for mental illness is challenging — individuals with autism spectrum disorder represent a mere 0.40% of those who receive disability benefits.

So, it's crucial to understand how the SSA characterizes autism spectrum disorder and what the SSA's qualifying criteria for autism are.

In this guide, we'll take you through the next steps you should consider.

Key Takeaways

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder is recognized as a developmental disability and eligible for financial assistance from the SSA.
  • Individuals must meet certain criteria to be eligible for benefits, such as having significant restrictions in job-related activities and particular impairments outlined in the SSA's Listing of Impairments.
  • Various educational, financial, and social support strategies are available to help autistic individuals reach their full potential.
Key Takeaways

Is Autism a Disability?

fidget spinner, mental health, autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is recognized as a developmental disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is classified as a disability in the medical, legal, and social realms, with distinctions in the level of severity and assistance required for autistic people.

You must meet specific medical requirements to receive disability benefits with autism set forth by the SSA, including an inability to work due to autism and other SSA requirements. Autistic individuals may be eligible for financial assistance through Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid waivers, which provide respite care, home modifications, and personal care assistance.

With proper understanding and support, individuals with autism can access essential resources to improve their quality of life.

The Social Security Administration's Definition of Autism

The SSA defines autism as a learning disability characterized by communication, social interaction, and restricted/repetitive behavior impairments.

This definition acknowledges autism as a mental disorder, and the SSA has established criteria for eligibility for social security benefits. The benefits offered by the SSA to those with autism spectrum disorder are designed to provide financial assistance and support to eligible individuals, helping them navigate the challenges of living with autism.

Grasping the SSA's definition of autism is key for those seeking disability benefits, as it sets the foundation for determining eligibility and the types of support available.

If you have autism and meet the specific criteria outlined by the SSA, you can access valuable resources to improve your life.

Causes of Autism

Although the precise cause of autism remains unclear, studies have indicated that genetic and nongenetic or environmental factors may be involved in developing developmental disabilities like autism.

Genetic factors encompass mutations in specific genes that are connected to autism, while environmental factors may comprise prenatal and postnatal exposures to particular toxins, infections, and other environmental stressors.

If you have autism and meet the necessary SSA criteria, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability income (SSDI), providing essential financial support to navigate the challenges associated with this complex condition.

Can You Get Disability for Autism?

money, coins, stack

The SSA offers two types of autism disability benefits for those who qualify.

Individuals under the age of 18 with autism may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and those with autism who are 18 years of age or older may be eligible for either SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Disability benefits are financial assistance programs the government provides to individuals who have a disability and cannot work, including monthly payments and medical coverage.

If your autism does not meet the criteria for disability benefits, alternative methods can be employed to aid autistic individuals, including:

  • Educational support and accommodations
  • Social skills and communication training
  • Therapy and counseling
  • Assistive technology
  • Support groups and community resources

Familiarizing oneself with the support options and eligibility requirements can help individuals with autism access much-needed resources for an improved quality of life.

Qualifying Conditions

Within the autism spectrum, various conditions may qualify for disability benefits, such as Asperger syndrome, autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder.

To be eligible for disability benefits, an individual must meet specific criteria, including significant restrictions in fundamental job-related activities like lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or recalling.

The impairment must endure or be projected to endure for no less than 12 months.

Familiarity with the qualifying conditions and eligibility criteria can help individuals with autism navigate the disability benefits application process more effectively, securing the financial support they require.

Social Security Disability Benefits for Autism

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are available for autistic adults who meet specific criteria, such as demonstrating an incapability of performing a basic unskilled job and possessing a restricted income.

Proper medical documentation of the diagnosis is required, including information on how autism affects the individual's ability to work and the severity of the condition. It can often be difficult for applicants to articulate their symptoms, so most autistic applicants are initially denied benefits.

To support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in securing employment, the SSA offers the Ticket to Work program. This program provides valuable resources and assistance for autistic individuals seeking to enter the workforce, helping them overcome challenges and succeed professionally.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits for Autistic Children

For autistic children, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available based on income and resources.

SSI is a program that assists individuals with disabilities who possess a low income, and families may apply for SSI for children with autism to facilitate the payment of supplementary resources needed by the child. Accurate medical and school records are essential for the SSI application process, as the SSA will contact the doctors independently to acquire the necessary documentation.

Upon reaching 18, the applicable regulations for autistic individuals become those of adults, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) coverage may continue. Those who were not eligible for SSI before turning 18 may become eligible with changes in income requirements. This could apply to several cases.

Familiarity with the eligibility requirements and application process for SSI benefits enables families to secure vital financial support for their autistic children.

Getting Disability for Autism: Criteria

To receive disability benefits for autism, individuals must meet specific criteria, including providing medical documentation that demonstrates compliance with the SSA's definition of autism and the established severity of the condition. Additionally, medical documents must be submitted to demonstrate either extreme limitation in at least one area or marked limitation in at least two specific areas.

If the autism does not meet the criteria for disability benefits, the SSA may still consider the individual for "medical-vocational allowance" benefits, which involve a more detailed examination of the person's disability. The SSA may also organize particular medical and functional testing (at their cost) to assess medical qualification for disability benefits.

Understanding the criteria and documentation requirements for disability benefits for autism will aid individuals in navigating the application process and securing necessary financial support.

What if my autism doesn't meet the criteria?

If your autism does not meet the criteria for disability benefits, it is still possible to qualify by demonstrating an inability to work due to autism. In such cases, providing accurate documentation and evidence of your condition is essential, highlighting the challenges you face in maintaining gainful employment.

Additionally, various programs and services are available for individuals with autism, such as:

By exploring these alternative resources and support options, you can still access the assistance you need to live a fulfilling and independent life.

Applying for Disability

laptop, office, hand

Applying for disability benefits involves a thorough process that requires the collection of necessary information and documents, the completion and submission of the application, and the assessment by the Social Security Administration.

You can apply online or by calling the SSA's toll-free number. Before applying, it is important to consider whether your autism impedes your ability to work, if you possess documentation of your condition, and if you have sought treatment.

Enlisting the aid of a social security disability attorney can facilitate the application process and increase your chances of success.

When to apply

The ideal time to apply for disability benefits is immediately upon becoming disabled and being unable to work or sustain gainful employment due to your medical condition.

When not to apply

It is not advisable to apply for disability if your physical or mental impairment is anticipated to persist for less than a year. To be eligible for disability benefits, the impairment must be expected to last for longer than one year.

Additionally, proper thorough medical documentation, including medical records and doctor's notes, is required for the application process. Familiarity with the eligibility requirements and necessary documentation enables you to decide whether to apply for disability benefits.

What types of benefits to apply for

When choosing between SSI and SSDI benefits, one should consider their current financial situation, work history, and long-term financial aspirations. SSI benefits are based on financial need and are available to individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources, while SSDI benefits are available to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes.

Additional information regarding SSI and SSDI benefits can be found on the Social Security Administration's website.

How Much is A Disability Check for Autism?

bank notes, dollar, us dollars

The average disability check for autism is $803.52, with maximum possible benefits for SSI at $914 per month for individuals and SSDI at $3,267 per month for those with the maximum allowable Social Security lifetime earnings.

The amount of benefits, including medical benefits, hinges on the individual's eligibility and personal circumstances, offering crucial financial support to those in need.

Strategies for Supporting Autistic Individuals

Supporting autistic individuals involves a combination of educational support, accommodations, and social skills training to help them thrive in various environments.

Government programs offer financial assistance to those individuals whose medical condition prevents them from working. The Katie Beckett Waiver is another program crafted explicitly for children under the age of 19 who have a disability, offering additional support options.

Understanding the support strategies and resources available can enable families and caregivers to better assist autistic individuals in reaching their full potential and leading satisfying lives.

Educational Support and Accommodations

Educational support and accommodations can play a vital role in helping autistic individuals succeed in learning environments. Such support options may include:

  • Sensory breaks
  • Visual schedules
  • Quiet spaces
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Fidget toys
  • Additional time to complete assignments

These accommodations help create a supportive learning environment for autistic students, allowing them to focus on their education and personal development.

Implementing these educational support measures and accommodations allows schools and educators to better cater to the unique needs of autistic individuals, fostering an inclusive and nurturing learning environment that promotes growth and achievement.

Social Skills and Communication Training

ai generated, friends, group

Social skills and communication training is a type of intervention that assists individuals on the autistic spectrum in cultivating and refining their social skills and communication capabilities. This can include activities such as role-playing, problem-solving, and other activities that aid autistic individuals in comprehending how to interact with others.

Participation in social skills and communication training can enable autistic individuals to interact with others more efficiently, enhancing social interactions, improving communication, and elevating the quality of life.

Various social skills and communication training options exist, such as role-playing, problem-solving, and other activities that assist autistic individuals in learning how to interact with others.

These training programs can enhance autistic individuals' social interactions and overall quality of life, fostering increased independence and personal growth.


Understanding autism as a disability and the various support options available is essential for individuals and families affected by this complex condition.

Working with the right social security disability attorney can make all the difference. And it won't cost you anything up front--they only get paid if you win your case and receive benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does autism count as a disability?

Autism is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Social Security Administration (SSA) as a disability based on a neurodevelopmental (brain-related) disorder. Adults and children with autism may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and it is also protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Which parent carries autism gene?

Research suggests that autism genes are usually inherited from the father, indicating that he is the parent who carries the autism gene.

Is autism and ADHD a disability?

Yes, both autism and ADHD are classified as disabilities under the Social Security Administration's rules, which means that they can qualify for disability benefits if their severity affects their ability to work and they meet other SSA requirements for eligibility.

What are the main types of disability benefits available for individuals with autism?

The main disability benefits available for individuals with autism are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).