Children with speech disorders can qualify for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program if they meet the medical and financial requirements.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers SSI and maintains a medical guide called the Blue Book that lists qualifying conditions for childhood disabilities.
Speech disorders qualify for disability benefits in several ways. First, hearing loss typically causes speech disorder, so the child may qualify under the Blue Book listing for hearing loss. Children under age 5 with a 50-decibel or less hearing threshold (air conduction) will qualify, as do children aged 5-18 with a 70-decibel hearing threshold (air conduction) and a 40 decibel threshold (bone conduction).
Children with a word recognition score below 40 will qualify, as do children with significant speech and language limitations. If a child has a cochlear implant, it is considered a disability until age 5 or until 1 year after surgery if the child is older.
A child can also qualify without having hearing loss, such as children with autism or Down syndrome. Most Down syndrome children automatically qualify. Autism Spectrum Disorder Blue Book guidelines state that the child must show severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, as well as compelling evidence of repetitive behaviors that restrict the ability to socially interact with other people. SSA will consider all three when making a determination about a child’s ability to qualify for an autism disability.
Your child may qualify with another speech disorder if the child experiences severe communication issues, such as:
• Inability to communicate with others
• Inability to follow directions
• Inability to attend school and receive a proper education
When you apply for SSI on behalf of your child, SSA requires
compelling medical evidence of the speech disorder. Get all diagnoses and doctor’s notes, as well as lists of tests performed. Be sure to include as much information as possible if an audiologist is also involved.
Even if a child meets the medical requirements, they must also financially qualify for SSI disability benefits. Basically, the family must have a demonstrated financial need. SSA will review the entire household income (mom, dad, other kids). Many parents earn too much for their child to qualify, but when the child turns 18, he or she can apply individually to SSA without parent income being counted.