The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees two disability programs, one of which is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program provides monthly benefits to individuals with disabilities who exhibit financial need and meet the medical requirements, then he or she might be approved for disability benefits. If a child is on the spectrum and the disorder limits the child enough that he or she meets the medical qualifications, then you might want to help the child apply for disability benefits from the SSA. A child with autism requires special medical care, has special education needs, and requires therapy, all of which affect the family financially. Disability benefits can help with those extra costs.
Meeting the Medical Criteria
The first step in getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits is meeting the medical criteria that the SSA uses to determine disability. Children, who are younger than 18 years of age, have different criteria to meet than the adults do. The SSA uses the Blue Book, which is a medical guide that has separate listings for children. To meet the listing for children with autism, the child must have delayed social and communication skills for their specific age.
The child’s autism listing is found in the Blue Book under Section 112.10. To be approved for SSI benefits, the child must display:
-a symptom of a communication impairment, which might be difficulty responding to speech or producing normal speech.
-a symptom that shows impaired social interaction, which is the inability or difficulty of connecting with others in non-verbal or verbal ways. Examples include the inability to imitate others or respond to others’ emotions.
-a symptom of restricted and/or repetitive behaviors, which include preoccupation with a single activity, rearranging objects, and the need for a highly structured, unchanging environment to function properly.
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Transition planning should ideally be taking place throughout a student’s entire career. The more time dedicated to mapping for the future and collecting information about resources here and there, the better! However, a more formal, structured plan should be crafted by an IEP team when your student turns 14. This team should focus on the needs and strengths of the child as they think of what the possible long-term outcomes will be post-graduation.
Family members and the students themselves are critical members of the team and should help guide the future planning statements based on their own values, preferences and challenges.
Not sure how to start or continue your transition planning? Milestones Autism Resources staff suggest exploring the resources below regardless of where you are in your journey to see how they might be able to connect you to new information and help you develop the right path forward.
Ohio Employment First – Ohio is an employment-first state. That means every student with a disability has the right to be considered for employment in their future. The Ohio Employment First website has a chart on how to use backwards planning to develop your transition goals towards employment. Backwards planing allows the IEP team to start with the ultimate goal for the student, then work backwards in defining what skills need to be taught and mastered.
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Upon moving to Ohio, Brian Taylor knew he wanted to get involved with a nonprofit in the local community. When his employer Sherwin Williams connected him with Milestones Autism Resources, he found a cause he was passionate about and the outlet he was searching for that would allow him to give back.
Fast forward to the present: Brian is now in his second year of serving as a Milestones Strike It Big co-chair. This position goes far beyond standard volunteering, involving heavy involvement with the planning of one of the organization’s largest events of the year (the autism-friendly bowling event engaged 17 sponsors and more than 400 bowlers in 2018). In this role, Brian provides guidance and support to staff and committee members as Milestones works toward hosting an incredible event and raising money for the Milestones free autism Helpdesk.
“My ultimate goal throughout this whole experience is to help serve our community and to help our team exceed the goals we’ve set,” Brian says. “We have so many great people serving on our committees and I am truly honored to be able to work with each one of them.”
So what drew Brian to get involved with Strike It Big in particular? The community element.
“In addition to helping raise money for such a crucial service, this event is so much fun for all participants,” Brian says. “Families who attend can expect an autism-friendly and fun atmosphere. You come and immediately create a personal connection with other families in the autism community, as well as the Milestones team and sponsors who are making it all happen.”
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If you ask anyone who works with individuals on the spectrum, or anyone in a social service setting for that matter, why they went into the specific type of work that they did, whether it is a teacher, case manager or job coach, it’s certainly plausible to assume that most, if not all of them, would respond with some form of an answer that identifies a desire to help people. It is perhaps in this primordial thought that the best of intentions presents the potential for unnecessary consequences. Perhaps more often than we should, social service professionals want to get involved, do more, and really try to help those in need. In many instances, the desire to be involved in such ways is more than just helpful, it is crucial to ensure people are being supported in ways that are most appropriate.
However, the real challenges that social service professionals are faced with are almost always rooted in two core constructs. First, they must prudently identify exactly when support is needed, and second, specifically how much of said support is actually needed. If too little support is provided, individuals in need of services are left unserved or underserved. In this scenario, needs go unmet. Yet if too much support is provided, individuals are prevented from experiencing the types of less restrictive and more autonomous environments that afford opportunities for learning and growth. Moreover, they become reliant on a professional to do things for them that they could and should be learning to do for themselves. In the context of employment and job coaching, this type of clarity from a professional can be the determining factor in whether or not an employment opportunity becomes a successful employment outcome.
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Over the years, society has experienced increasing awareness of the autism spectrum through organizations like Milestones Autism Resources, the Autism Society, Autism Speaks, Autism Self-Advocacy Network, OCALI and others. These organizations, along with families and individuals, have worked to create public awareness of the social/relational difficulties for those on the autism spectrum. Promoting social/relational awareness is important and needed. However, there is increased need to provide insight for creating an environment of social/relational acceptance. Instead of mutual acceptance, a passive coexistence/tolerance can be a result, where neurotypicals and individuals on the autism spectrum may avoid relationships with each other. Individuals on the spectrum and neurotypical communities are often left without instruction on how to engage in relationships with each other. Unfortunately, people tend to avoid what they don’t understand, including relationships with individuals who are different from them. While this is not always the case, change is deeply needed.
Many adults living in our society are or could be classified as being on the autism spectrum. Within these parameters are individuals who grew up with an array of burgeoning services available to them as children or transitional adults and those who did not. Depending on individual circumstances, there may be varying degrees of social/relational competence or lack thereof. Regardless, the social and relational difficulties experienced by those on the autism spectrum do not cease after provision of childhood services or upon entering adulthood. In fact, difficulties continue throughout adulthood. Individuals with autism would benefit from a continuity of resources that address social/relational needs across the lifespan.
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