How a Child Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits

On March 23, 2023, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported that 1 in 36 children is affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD or autism). Having an autistic child can require parents/caregivers to make immense lifestyle changes to determine whether their child receives the care they need to thrive. Frequently one parent may become the child’s primary caregiver and give up their paying job to focus on organizing the child’s many appointments and activities. A single income can put the household in financial jeopardy. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments from the Social Security Administration can help defray some of the extra costs for parents. 

Qualifying for SSI Benefits 

There are two components for a child qualifying for SSI benefits because of autism. First, the child must meet certain conditions to be eligible for benefits. The child’s medical records must show that the child meets the requirements in the listing for autism in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. The Blue Book requires children with autism must have all three of these deficits: 

  • deficits in social interaction 
  • deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and 
  • significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. 

    If the child meets these medical conditions, then the child must also have a severe limitation in one of the following areas or a marked limitation in two of these areas: 

    • interacting with others 
    • focusing on activities   
    • understanding, remembering, or using information 
    • adapting or managing oneself 

      Parents/caregivers must provide medical proof the child meets these requirements. Statements from doctors and therapists, medical records, a diagnosis of autism, and statements from qualified professionals such as case workers and therapists verify the child’s limitations. If the child meets these qualifications and the parents/caregiver can provide documentation, then the parents/caregiver must meet financial requirements. 

      Financial Requirements for SSI Benefits 

      The SSI Benefits program was created by the Social Security Administration to help low-income families.  There is an income cap to ensure they are helping financially eligible families. Parents/caregivers must meet the requirements for the child(ren) to qualify for SSI benefits. The combined total income for all adults in the household cannot exceed the current income cap. However, the cap increases based on the number of adults in the household and the number of children ineligible for disability benefits. 

      To prove the combined total income of the household is under the income cap, the head of household must provide a copy of their current W-2 or a federal tax return displaying their income. 

      Filing a Claim 

      Parents must file a claim on behalf of their child(ren) in person at their local SSA branch office. You should consult the starter kit to make sure you have the proper information when applying for your child(ren). Bring copies (DO NOT PROVIDE ORIGINALS) of the child’s medical records and the financial documentation for each working adult in the household to your appointment. A staff member will help parents/caregivers file a claim for SSI benefits on behalf of their child(ren).  



      SSA Blue Book: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ChildhoodListings.htm 

      Medical Proof: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/acceptable-medical-source 

      Income Requirements: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm 

      SSA Office Locations: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/state-social-security-disability/texas 

      SSI Childhood Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm