Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects how the brain processes information. Symptoms of Autism vary in both type and degree and can develop gradually, but the condition is usually recognized by age three, and often sooner. An infant with autism does not react to social stimulation with healthy behavior such as babbling, laughing, smiling, or making eye contact. Instead, an infant with autism may show a marked inability to interact, and often begins to show signs of repetitive or limited behavior.
There are three disorders in the “Autism spectrum:” Autism, Asperger Syndrome (AS), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS). All three conditions are present from birth, although it is common for people with AS and PDD-NOS to be diagnosed until they reach their teen or adult years.
A diagnosis of Autism requires that the child exhibit at least two symptoms of impaired social interaction, one symptom of communication impairment, and one symptom of restricted or repetitive behavior. Impaired social interaction is basically an inability to or marked difficulty in connecting with others either verbally or non-verbally. Examples include an inability to approach others or to imitate and respond to emotions in others. Communication impairments can include difficulty in producing or responding to normal speech. Restricted and repetitive behaviors include purposeless movements, rearranging objects, preoccupation with a single activity, and a need for a highly structured, unchanging environment. Autism that is not diagnosed until a person reaches teen or adult years is, by definition, a milder type than that diagnosed in a child.
Asperger Syndrome is included in the grouping of autistic disorders as well. While some symptoms of AS are quite similar to Autism, people with AS develop the ability to think and use language, often quite well. In many cases, they can learn to function independently at school, college, and work, provided they find the right sort of structured environment (limited social contact or a solitary working environment, and a quiet work area as people with AS are sensitive to light and noise).
While some medical professionals classify Pervasive Development Disorder as a subtype of AS, people with PDD-NOS generally fall into a separate category of those with Autism or Asperger symptoms who cannot be specifically diagnosed with Autism or AS.
The requirements for a disability claim under childhood Autism is found in Section 112. The requirements for adult Autism (AS or PDD-NOS) is found in 12.10. For adults the Listing requires documentation characterized by qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, in the development of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and in imaginative activity. Often, there is a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests, which frequently are stereotyped and repetitive.
If you are disabled because of Autism or a related autistic disability that prevents you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Although total disability based on childhood Autism can be met by meeting the conditions of the SSA listing for that condition, total disability for adult-diagnosed Autism (AS or PDD) can be somewhat more difficult to prove. It is therefore very important that you work closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security Disability advocate to collect to present the most appropriate and complete documentation possible in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) to help to ensure that your Autism disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.