Children who have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome that severely affects their functioning at home or school may be able to get disability benefits through the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program.
What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger's Disorder is a developmental disorder, and is considered to be a milder version of Autistic Disorder. Both Asperger's Disorder and Autistic Disorder are considered subgroups of a larger category, called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in the United States.
In Asperger's Disorder, children who are affected by the disorder often experience social isolation and sometimes exhibit eccentric behavior. The speech of some children might sound peculiar because of abnormalities of inflection, and their talking tends to follow a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness can be found in articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a deep interest in one particular area, such as cars and trains, door knobs and hinges, or meteorology and astronomy, which doesn't leave much room for other areas that might be more age appropriate for the child.
How Is Asperger’s Diagnosed?
Doctors look at several factors to diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome:
- problems with nonverbal interaction, such as facial expression and body postures
- inability to develop peer relationships with a lack of social or emotional closeness to other children
- lack of sharing with other children of enjoyment and interests.
Also, children who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome may have:
- a preoccupation with a particular interest, which may appear abnormal by the degree of focus in the activity
- a specific routine or a ritual way of doing things, or
- a specific mannerism such as finger twisting or a particular movement with a certain part of the body.
In diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome, a physician will also look at a child’s ability for social interaction with other children, speech development, and eye contact.
How Social Security Evaluates Asperger's Syndrome
Social Security's "blue book" does not specifically mention Asperger's Syndrome in the listing for mental disorders (112.00), but there is a listing for Austistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders (112.10) that could apply.
This listing on pervasive developmental disorders requires a child to have a lack of reciprocal social interaction. In other words, does the child have a hard time making friends and relating to other children? The listing also requires the child to difficulty with communication (both verbal and nonverbal) and imaginative activity. Finally, the child should have a limited number of activities and interests (this is a requirement for autism, but not necessarily other PDDs).
In addition, these deficits must cause two of the following four difficulties:
- impaired cognitive or communicative functioning
- age-appropriate social functioning
- age-appropriate personal functioning, or
- severe problems concentrating and finishing tasks.
The ability of your child's medical and school records to show the severity of your child's Asperger's Syndrome will be important to Social Security's evaluation. In particular, Social Security will give a lot of weight to your child's doctor's opinion of your child's level of functioning.
Contacting the Social Security Administration
If you believe your child may be disabled due to Asperger’s Syndrome, contact your local SSA office to set up an appointment to submit an application for disability benefits. You can call the SSA at (800) 772-1213. For more information on disability claims, please see our article on getting SSI disability for children.