Autism is a neural developmental disorder which causes difficulty with communication and interaction in social situations. It can vary widely in its severity and the extent to which it limits a person’s ability to function in social situations. The term autism can refer to autistic disorder itself or to a wide variety of related disorders. Classic autistic disorder typically begins to show in young childhood, and is characterized by a child regressing in their development. The common thread amongst all autism spectrum disorders is that they all affect a person’s ability to interact appropriately with others.
How Autism Affects Your Physical Capacity for Work
While autism is not a physical disability, per se, it can have an effect on your ability to perform physical work. The Social Security Administration recognizes that autism limits the types of activities and interests of autistic people and can make it difficult for people with autism or autistic spectrum disorders to perform work if it is not within their narrow interests, even if that work is purely physical in nature.
How Autism Affects Your Mental Capacity for Work
Autism primarily affects your ability to interact socially with others. While those with milder forms of autism can sometimes find suitable work if their special needs are addressed, many others can’t. People with classic autism or more severe forms of autistic spectrum disorders cannot generally handle jobs which require any significant degree of interaction with others.
Autism makes it difficult to communicate effectively or to receive communication effectively. While there are therapeutic methods which can help people to communicate with autistic people effectively, there are few employers who are willing and able to go to the lengths of training it would require.
On top of the “normal” difficulties people with autism face, many have periods of decompression (more commonly called “meltdowns”). These periods of high stress are typically coupled with socially inappropriate (and, in some cases, violent) behavior. There are methods of treatment and medication to lessen the frequency and severity of decompression episodes, but their effectiveness varies. Some people with autism are unable to cope with work environments because of decompression episodes.
Autism and autistic spectrum disorders can also affect a person’s ability to concentrate. Autism is often marked with the inability to concentrate on anything outside of the autistic person’s immediate interests and activities. Jobs which require a person to keep pace or to stick with a given task for any extended period of time are generally beyond the abilities of someone with classic autism or severe autistic spectrum disorders.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits Based on Autism
If you have autism or an autistic spectrum disorder and are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits, you should start by consulting with a Social Security disability lawyer. While this is good advice for anyone who is applying for benefits, it is especially important for those with disabilities which affect your ability to concentrate or stay focused and persistent.
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates a disability claim based on autism, they look at how the disorder affects the claimant’s ability to function at a workplace. In addition to medical documentation showing that you have been diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, they will need evidence that your disability significantly limits the activities you can do, affects your social interactions, and affects your ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally.
You will need to show that these limitations are severe enough that they would make it unreasonable to expect the autistic person to function on the job site. The SSA will generally require statements from doctors, teachers, and others who are familiar with the extent to which the claimant’s autism affects his abilities to concentrate, communicate, and interact socially.
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