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Is Autism Considered a Disability?

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects communication and social interaction skills. It is thought to be present from birth and is usually recognized by three years of age. Not everyone with autism displays the same behaviors. There are many signs of autism and they may be experienced by varying degrees. So many parents of children who have just been diagnosed often ask: Is autism considered a disability?

In some cases, yes. Diagnosis of autism depends upon your child showing symptoms of social interaction impairment, communication impairment, and a restricted, repetitive pattern of behavior.

Autism Behaviors

Communication symptoms can include a lack of responsiveness or unusual gestures. Restrictive behavior can include purposeless movement such as rocking, head rolling, hand flapping, and other movements. It can also include compulsive behavior such as rearranging objects and needing to control the physical environment. Ritual behavior is also a common symptom of autism, such as needing to do things the same way and at the same time every day and resisting change in the environment. Limited activity, focus, and interest is also a symptom of autism, as well as self-injury, such as biting oneself, pulling hair, and other self-injury activities.

When Autism is Considered a Disability

Because of the nature of these symptoms, severe autism is considered a disability. Conditions like autism are recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as potentially disabling and your child may be able to qualify for government benefits through the different programs.

SSI Disability Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – this program is open to any individual with disabilities, of any age, regardless of work history, as long as they meet the medical eligibility and financial limitation requirements. SSI is a need-based program, which means that an applicant must have very limited income and financial resources available to pay for everyday needs and ongoing care. Children can apply for SSI, but they may not be eligible if their family earns too much income.

IHSS Disability Benefits

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is a California government program that provides financial support for in-home caretakers of impaired elders, persons with disabilities, and children with developmental disabilities including autism. While a variety of benefits are available, the most important for families of children with special needs is “Protective Supervision.” When you are approved for Protective Supervision, you will receive an hourly wage to stay home and care for your child as an IHSS provider. This wage is exempt from federal income taxes and can be up to $3,000 per month.
Unfortunately, applying for and receiving these benefits are notoriously difficult and many families give up after encountering roadblock after roadblock. The application process can be confusing, and you need to adequately prepare all the necessary documentation to become an IHSS provider.

Applying for IHSS Program Benefits

The IHSS application process generally involves a written application, an in-home interview with a social worker, and medical records. Once approved as an IHSS provider, there will be ongoing assessments. You can get assistance at every stage of this process whether you are a first-time applicant, or your application has been denied.
First time applicants can get help to:

  • Determine if you are eligible
  • Create a plan with you to maximize your benefits
  • Perform all necessary research and complete all paperwork
  • Obtain any required medical records
  • Assist you through the interview and all processing

If you applied for IHSS benefits and were rejected, you can get help to:

  • Review your case
  • Check all records and research the reason for your rejection
  • Assist you in appealing your application
  • Represent you at hearings

Every child with special needs deserves full supervised care, and no family should be turned away. If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
Dial (877) 762-0702 or email us at

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American Disability Association © 2022
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