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Those with autism seek help through SSDI

New Jersey parents of autistic children know that the disorder presents huge challenges to the entire family. An important transition for young people with autism is the point at which they turn 18 years old when they can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI helps young people with autism, and other mental illnesses, access resources for the transition into adulthood.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines autism as a spectrum disorder, meaning that the extent of disability ranges significantly from person to person. According to the American Psychological Association, autism is the "most severe developmental disability."

Parents usually see the symptoms of autism during the first three years. The disorder causes serious difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication as well as social interaction. Such was the case with a boy recently profiled in a story about those with autism coming of age.

Another important transition for those with autism is age 21 when they "age out" of the public school system. While in public schools, young people with autism are protected by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, guaranteeing their education.

Parents who have children with disabilities need to decide whether their child will, after age 21, live in a group home, work in a special setting, work in the general setting or attend some sort of post-secondary education. For example, the mother of the young man detailed in the recent report hopes her son will be able to obtain an associate's degree and full-time job. However, such an outcome may not be possible for everyone with autism.

The range of symptoms seen in autism can be difficult to place within the Social Security Administration's medical-vocational rules. The SSA will use its framework to determine whether a young person is capable of work. The level of disability in any particular child is highly individual and can make for a highly complex SSDI application.

All mental disorders, including autism, present special challenges in the application process for SSDI. Families with autistic children might consider contacting an experienced attorney to ensure the smoothest process possible as young people reach adulthood.

Source: Columbia Missourian, "Boone Life: Graduating with autism," Katie Alaimo, April 19, 2012

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