Harlan Still & Koch

SSI can help support Columbia parents of children with autism

Being the parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder can be very rewarding, but it can also be expensive. Children with autism may require special educational tools, medical care and technologies to help them with social interaction and communication. Unless families have sufficient income, these expenses may seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration provide financial help for parents of children with disabilities like autism. Most parents should consider applying for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. This program exists to help pay the child's increased expenses so that families can afford other needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, 

SSI is a need-based program, and family income must not exceed a certain amount. As part of the evaluation process, the SSA will evaluate household income and financial assets to determine whether the family is eligible. This is called parental deeming and is necessary when the child is under 18 and lives at home or otherwise under parental control.

The second step is to establish that the child has autism as defined by the SSA. The application must show that the child has deficits in development of social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and imaginative activity. The child must also show a "markedly" small number of activities and interests.

Parents should know that many SSI applications are rejected. This is not the end of the road; the SSA has an appeal process. People can apply and appeal on their own, but an attorney may be able to help in many cases.

Source: Age of Autism, "Autism and Social Security Disability Benefits," Molly Clarke, July 10, 2013

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