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Youth Autism and SSI

Updated: May 16, 2020

In March of 2020, the CDC released a report focused on the prevalence of ASD across the United States, and concluded that roughly 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has autism. Autism, even in its milder forms, can often inhibit the ability to function in a variety of fast-paced or communication-heavy workplace environments. For this reason, it is important to equip parents and caregivers with the appropriate information to prepare these children for their future.


The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two programs that include availability to individuals with Autism. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance, a system that pays disability benefits based on the individual’s work history and amount of “work credits” they have earned. More information about this complex system can be found here. However, this program applies to those who have 2+ years of work experience and thus it does not apply to a child applicant.

The second program offered by the SSA is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is aimed towards those who struggle financially to cover basic living costs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Typically, SSI is only available to those over the age of 65, but if deemed disabled by the SSA, there is no minimum age for eligibility. To prove eligibility, the SSA evaluates youth applicants with Autism according to the following criteria:

Medical documentation of both of the following:

  1. Qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction; and

  2. Significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities


Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information

  • Interact with others

  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace

  • Adapt or manage oneself

Along with a supplemental paycheck every month, eligible individuals under SSI also have access to an ABLE account. Made possible by the ABLE Act of 2014, this is a tax-free bank account that an individual can use to pay for qualified expenses related to their disability. More information, including a list of qualified expenses and FAQ, can be found here. It is important to note here that achieving eligibility for SSI can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

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