Sensory integration disorder (SID), also known as sensory integration dysfunction, affects a child’s ability to organize the sensory information he or she receives from the environment. Every aspect of daily life, including eating, playing, going to school, listening to music, and getting dressed, involves sensory information that the brain must process, organize, and interpret. In children with SID, the failure of the brain to organize this information can cause problems that include behavioral issues, delayed motor skills, nutritional issues, poor school performance, and social isolation.
The exact cause of SID is unknown, but scientists believe it is primarily an inherited disorder, though environmental and birth complications may contribute to its development. SID can be treated, with varying degrees of success, with specialized occupational therapy that focuses on sensory integration (called OT-SI).
To be found disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must determine that the child meets both of the following criteria:
Some childhood impairments are eligible for immediate approval if the condition is one outlined in the SSA’s Childhood Listing of Impairments. However, SID is not a listed impairment; therefore, the SSA will use the Childhood Evaluation Form SSA-538 to determine the extent to which the disorder affects various aspects of a child’s life, and, subsequently, whether the child is disabled.
To find that a child is disabled due to SID, the SSA must determine that the SID causes a “marked” limitation in two domains, or that it causes an “extreme” limitation in one domain. There are six domains that the SSA evaluates in childhood disability claims without a listed impairment. These are the ability to:
Marked limitation. The SSA defines a “marked” limitation as one that interferes seriously with the child’s ability to “independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” It also states that a “marked” limitation as “more than moderate” but “less than extreme.”
Extreme limitation. The SSA defines an “extreme” limitation as one that interferes very seriously with the child’s ability to “independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” (You can read more about these definitions on the SSA's website.)
To determine the extent of how your child is affected by the SID, the SSA will compare your child’s functioning with the specific benchmarks established for an average unimpaired child of the same age. Each “domain” has its own set of benchmarks.
The SSA will complete the Form SSA-538 based on the evidence that has been submitted. Some types of evidence used are school reports, individualized education plan (IEP) reports, doctors’ records, and any reports from therapists. However, you must make sure that you take a Form SSA-538 to your child’s educational and medical providers and ask that they complete a form on behalf of your child. You can view Form 538 online at the SSA's website, but you should ask the SSA for a copy. If you have an attorney, he or she will make sure that your child’s providers receive the form and that it is completed and submitted properly.
Here are some examples of childhood disability claims based on SID and how the SSA would evaluate them.
If the SSA determines that a child is disabled, he or she may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, in order to receive SSI, the child’s parents must meet the economic threshold set by the SSA. To learn more, see our article on Social Security benefits for children.