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Can Adults with Autism Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Autism is a disorder that is usually present from birth, and affects a person’s communication abilities as well as their personal skills.

Typically, the disorder is diagnosed by the time a child is three years old. An adult who suffers from autism may qualify for both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as well as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits. However, for adults to qualify for SSDI, they must have paid into the system. That means that they must have a work history, and must have worked in jobs in which they paid taxes into the Social Security system.

When an adult above the age of 18 files a claim for disability benefits for autism, the Social Security Administration will determine whether the person meets the criteria in Listing 12.10 Autistic Disorder. Under this section, a person must be able to show that they suffer from impairment in social interactions, communication skills, and restrictions in interests and activities. These impairments must be clearly measurable.  They must also restrict the ability to function in a work environment, limit social and personal relations with others, or must pose severe challenges in concentration.

A number of different types of tests, including the results of psychological tests like logic and intelligence, can be used as evidence in support of a claim. For example, the results of the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Third Edition are often used as reliable pieces of evidence in support of claims for adult autism.

If, however, your symptoms do not meet the criteria in the disability listing, the agency will evaluate your claim based on residual functional capacity. That means that it will evaluate the maximum amount of work that you are capable of performing in a work environment, including sitting, walking, and standing, and concentration abilities.  If, for example, your autism makes it difficult for you to interact with coworkers, or to concentrate on work for a long period of time, you could be eligible for benefits.