Social Security Disability for your special needs child

tour special needs family

A special needs child may have behavioral, mental, physical, or emotional disabilities or developmental delays. Many have a combination of these, and meeting special needs can be taxing, emotionally, physically, and financially. Social Security disability benefits, which are often available to children with special needs, can provide ongoing monetary support. Benefits can help ease financial worries and provide the targeted care your child needs.

Disability Benefits for Children

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a disability program that has no work history requirements and is therefore available to children with disabilities. There are program-specific eligibility rules though and to qualify, a child must not only have a disability, but the household must have a financial need for benefits.

Financially qualifying for SSI requires a review of the child’s financial situation, including any direct income or assets that belong to the child as well as those that belong to the parents or guardians. If your household has a higher income, you might not qualify, regardless of your child’s disability. To learn more about asset deeming and whether or not your family will qualify, you can read the SSA’s guide on SSI for children.

Medically Meeting SSI Requirements

In addition to having a medically determinable impairment, children must also either:

· Meet a Blue Book listing


· Qualify for benefits through proving severe functional limitations.

The Blue Book is a manual of recognized disabilities. The SSA uses this guide every time it evaluates an application for disability benefits. It contains unique listings for each disability, including:

· Medical evidence requirements


· Severity level measures

You can find the Blue Book online and review the sections under which your child is most likely to qualify. Keep in mind though that the listings are often complex, containing a lot of formal, medical language or terminology.

Each disability will qualify differently. 99% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome will automatically medically qualify for benefits. A child with ADHD however will need to prove that he or she has difficulties with inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity, on top of additional qualifying factors based on your child’s age.

If your child doesn’t meet a listed condition, an approval for benefits may be more difficult, but is still possible. The SSA will need to review functional limitations, which is done by requesting additional information from you, your child’s doctor, and perhaps others, including teachers, therapists, counselors, or social service workers.

Functional limitations can be intellectual, physical, emotional, or behavioral. They must be severe however, meaning they significantly interrupt or prevent a child’s participation in typical or usual, “age-appropriate” activities. Appropriate activities will depend on your child’s actual age, but typically include:

· Getting dressed
· Bathing and hygiene
· School performance
· Following instructions
· Feeding oneself
· Ability to interact with other children

If your child is old enough to be in school, a teachers’ insight can be invaluable in filing a claim. If your son or daughter doesn’t meet a disability listing but still has severe functional limitations, the SSA may grant benefits based on their findings from the functional review.

Applying for Benefits

SSI application requires an interview with an SSA representative. Most interviews take place at local SSA offices, though phone interviews and meetings conducted at other locations can sometimes be arranged. You can call 1-800-772-1213 toll-free to schedule an interview, or stop by the SSA office nearest you.

This article was contributed by Social Security Disability Help. For any additional information or questions, feel free to contact us at

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