Getting SSI Disability for Auditory Processing Disorder for a Child

Children with auditory processing disorder (APD) that's severe enough to hurt communication may be able to qualify for SSI.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School

If your child suffers from auditory processing disorder (APD) and is unable to function at a level necessary to succeed at school and/or home, he or she may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as a child with a disability. However, only those children with the most severe APD will qualify for disability benefits.

Difficulties Caused by Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorder (APD), which is also commonly known as central auditory disorder (CAPD), is a disorder in which individuals have difficulty understanding what they are hearing due to a lack of coordination between their brain and their ears. It affects about 5% of school children and can have a significant impact on their ability to function, especially at school.

Children with APD are unable to detect subtle differences between sounds in words even though they have no difficulty actually hearing the words. For example, a child with APD may have difficulty distinguishing between words that sound the same, such as cat and hat. Background noise or distractions further limit their ability to understand words.

Symptoms for children with APD can vary from mild to severe and are different in every child. Common symptoms can include:

  • difficulty paying attention and remembering information provided verbally
  • inability to follow multistep directions, or even simple directions in severe cases
  • poor listening skills
  • becoming distracted or bothered by loud or sudden noises
  • increased time needed to process information (for example, when answering questions)
  • problems with speech
  • difficulties with reading, spelling, and/or writing
  • decreased academic performance
  • being disorganized and forgetful, and
  • difficulty with following conversations.

A significant indication that your child may be suffering from APD is a noted increase in performance in a quiet environment. APD may also be a part of another problem, such as a learning disability.

Over time, if APD is untreated or unsuccessfully treated, children can develop speech impairments or academic difficulties due to their lack of auditory processing skills.

Qualifying for SSI for Auditory Processing Disorder

Income and Asset Limits

To qualify for SSI, there are income and asset requirements for the family with whom the child lives. The family's countable income cannot be higher than the SSI limit. For more information, please see our article on family income deeming for child SSI.

Meeting a Disability Listing

To meet one of Social Security's disability listings (conditions that are severe enough to qualify your child for disability benefits), you must prove that your child has impairments that meet the required elements of the listing.

For children with auditory processing disorder, Listing 111.09, communication impairment, under Neurological Disorders, addresses APD. Children can meet this listing if they:

  • have significant comprehension deficits that have led to ineffective verbal communication for children their age (children must have serious limitations in their ability to communicate orally), or
  • have speech deficits that significantly impact the clarity and content of their speech (children must have a serious limitation in communicating so that a person who is unfamiliar with the children cannot easily understand their speech).

It is essential to provide a proper diagnosis of APD from your child's doctor and detailed reports on your child's comprehension or speech deficits in order to increase your child's likelihood of receiving benefits. The reports should come from a trained individual, such as an audiologist or speech pathologist.

Equaling a Listing

To "equal" a disability listing, you must show that your child has an impairment that is very similar to a listing and is equal to the listing in both severity and duration.

The above listing separates comprehension and speech impairments. However, if your child has been diagnosed with APD and doesn't quite meet either the comprehension deficit part of the listing or the speech deficit part alone, your child could equal the listing if he or she has a combination of speech and comprehension problems that prevent effective communication.

It is important to provide doctors' opinions that the severity of your child's impairments combined are equal to the level of impairment that is required for the listing.

Functionally Equaling the Listings

If your child does not technically meet a listing, your child may still be able to receive benefits if he or she has a marked or severe impairment in one or more functional areas (this is called functionally equaling the listings).

The functional areas that are relevant to APD include acquiring and using information and attending and completing tasks. There are five main problem areas for children with APD, as follows.

  • Difficulty paying attention if there is any background noise. Normal classroom environments and noises may be very frustrating to the child.
  • Difficulty remembering information that is provided verbally. The problems with memory may be immediate or may be difficulty remembering the information to use after some time has passed.
  • Difficulty hearing the difference between similar words and sounds. The inability to tell the difference between words can affect the ability to follow directions and read, spell, or write.
  • Difficulty maintaining focus to listen long enough to obtain necessary information, such as listening to a lecture or directions on how to do a job.
  • Difficulty with higher listening skills. Higher listening skills allow individuals to draw inferences from conversations, complete verbal math problems, and understand riddles. These skills are necessary for higher-level auditory processing and language skills.

Problems in these areas of impairment could affect your child's ability to retain and use information given to them and to complete tasks due to the inability to comprehend what is being told to them. For more information, see our article on functionally equaling the children's listings.

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