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Autism therapies may be unfeasible without disability benefits

As a recent article demonstrates, there’s no guarantee that any specific therapy will be effective in helping autistic children. In fact, finding a successful approach may often seem more like trial-and-error than medical science.

Readers of this blog know that the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits can be frustrating. Although Supplemental Security Income benefits may be an option for individuals without a qualifying work history, there are income restrictions. Yet for parents of a child with autism, the cost of innovative new treatments can be overwhelming, if not unattainable, without assistance from programs like SSI benefits. 

Part of the difficulty in finding the right treatment lies in the very name of this disability: autism spectrum disorder. Children who receive this diagnosis may have widely varying functional capabilities. In fact, some scientists think that a number of distinct brain conditions might produce symptoms typically regarded as autistic. Said another way, no reliable biomarkers exist. 

If a number of distinct causes may result in autistic symptoms, that diversity may explain why a subset of children diagnosed with autism seem to be able to grow out of it, after receiving treatments like applied behavior analysis. Broader diagnostic criteria may partly explain the increase in autism diagnoses: one in 68 children, up from one in 88 just two years ago.

Yet such therapies may not be included under a local school's special education program. In one example, parents of an autistic child sought out applied behavior analysis therapy at a cost of over $10,000. An attorney that focuses on disability benefits may have strategies for helping parents of autistic children explore all available resources, such as SSI benefits.

Source: The New York Times, “The Kids Who Beat Autism,” Ruth Padawer, July 31, 2014

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