Social Security Disability and Asperger's Syndrome: Filing for Benefits

Applicants whose Asperger's syndrome is severely limiting can get disability benefits.

Asperger’s syndrome is an autism-spectrum disorder that causes development delays, primarily in the areas of socialization and communication. People with Asperger’s often have difficulty relating to others and have a singularly focused interest in one topic.

Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome

Children or adults with Asperger's syndrome often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • monotonous, stiff, and rapid speech
  • uncoordinated and clumsy movements
  • an inability to perceive, empathize, or be sensitive to other people’s emotions
  • difficulty grasping humor
  • repetitive behavior
  • odd nonverbal communication, such as the avoidance of eye-contact, minimal facial expressions, and unusual posture, and
  • an all consuming interest in one or two narrow topics.

Unlike autism, Asperger’s syndrome rarely causes language delays in children. However, conversations with a child with Asperger’s often seem stilted and lack the back and forth engagement of normal interactions. Children with Asperger’s often lag in their physical development as well and may be slow to crawl, walk, catch or rolls balls, or successfully navigate playground equipment.

As a person with Asperger’s grows into adulthood, he or she frequently develops depression and anxiety. Mental illness can be a prohibitive factor in successful employment, and because of the significant impact Asperger’s has on the ability for social navigation, an individual with Asperger’s will likely have difficulty interacting appropriately with co-workers.

People with Asperger’s may also be limited by their need for repetitive behaviors (such as hand twisting or flapping) and restricted interests. These behaviors may prevent a person with Asperger’s from successful employment outside their narrow areas of interest, and may alienate employers and co-workers. This alienation often causes further isolation for the Asperger’s sufferer, and in turn increased depression and anxiety.

Can I Get Disability for My Asperger’s Syndrome?

If an applicant meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing requirements for autistic spectrum disorders, he or she will be automatically approved for disability. The listing for autistic spectrum disorders (updated in 2017) requires that an applicant’s medical records show:

  • deficits in social interaction
  • deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and
  • significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

These deficits and behavior patterns must severely limit the applicant’s functioning. For more information on the requirements of Social Security’s listing for autism spectrum disorders, see our article on disability for autism.

Basic Disability Requirements for Asperger’s Syndrome

Children with Asperger's syndrome are eligible only for SSI benefits, and there are strict family income and asset limits for the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program. For more information, see our section on SSI requirements. Children whose claims are not approved by meeting the listing for autism spectrum disorder may still be approved if they can functionally equal the listings.

An adult with Asperger’s syndrome can apply for SSI or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). However, SSDI is available only to adults who have a significant work history working in jobs that paid Social Security taxes or to those whose parents have enough work credits (in some circumstances -- see our article on SSDI benefits for disabled adult children). In addition, an adult or teenage disability applicant may not earn more than $1,170 per month from working (in 2017).Adults who don’t meet the disability listing above may still be approved on the basis of a medical-vocational allowance.

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