Cerebral palsy is a general term used to describe a set of neurological and physical limitations that are non-progressive (meaning they don't get worse). It is generally believed that cerebral palsy begins in the womb and, in fact, 75% of individuals with cerebral palsy are thought to be born with the disorder. However, there are a few cases of cerebral palsy that occur during birth and after birth. The cause of cerebral palsy is unknown in approximately 80% of cases. In roughly 20% of cases, the cause is determined to be related to malnutrition, infection, or severe head trauma at an early age.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are four types of cerebral palsy: spastic, mixed, ataxic, and athetoid. The most common form of cerebral palsy is the spastic type. Spastic cerebral palsy affects about 70% of all individuals who have the disorder. All classifications of cerebral palsy, however, involve problems with muscle tone, motor function, coordination, posture, and reflexes. Additionally, some individuals with cerebral palsy have problems with speech, learning, hearing, and vision.
There is no known cure for cerebral palsy, and treatment options include various therapies to cope with the effects of the disorder.
Getting Disability Benefits for Cerebral Palsy
Mild cerebral palsy will not qualify for benefits, but if cerebral palsy severely disrupts activities like walking, talking, seeing, or hearing, disability benefits may be available. In its Listing of Impairments, the SSA details how significant the impairments caused by cerebral palsy must be for it to qualify as a disability that prevents you from working. The SSA requires you to have one of the following, caused by cerebral palsy:
- an IQ of 70 or less
- serious problems talking, hearing, or seeing
- serious problems walking or standing (needing crutches or braces)
- serious problems using hands or fingers (including not being able to write or cook), or
- behavior problems, such as emotional instability or destructiveness.
If you don’t automatically qualify for disability benefits under the above listing for cerebral palsy, the SSA is required to consider the effect of your impairments on your capacity to perform routine daily activities and work. For more information, see Getting Disability for Cerebral Palsy on a Medical-Vocational Allowance.
Presumptive Disability Payments
If you apply for SSI and are likely to be found medically eligible for cerebral palsy, the SSA could grant you immediate benefits rather than make you wait for months to get a decision. If you have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and have severe difficulty speaking, coordinating hand and arm movements, or walking without braces, you probably qualify for these “presumptive disability” benefits. For more information, see presumptive disability payments for cerebral palsy.
SSI Payments for Children With Cerebral Palsy
If you need to apply for SSI for a child with cerebral palsy, the rules are a bit different; see how children with cerebral palsy can qualify for disability benefits.