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My Child Is an Adult with Special Needs. Can They Qualify for Disability?


While many charities and organizations focus on supporting children with special needs, it can be difficult to find similar resources for adults. Adults with special needs typically need two types of support: community and financial. Some programs, like those offered at The Arc in Evansville, help integrate adults with special needs into the community. But it can be difficult to find programs that provide financial support for adults with special needs or their families who are struggling to make ends meet.

One avenue for financial support is Social Security disability benefits. Whether or not an adult with special needs can qualify for disability depends on a number of factors, including the type of disability program they apply for: disability insurance benefits (DIB) or supplemental security income (SSI).

Adults with Special Needs and DIB

Of the two programs, adults with special needs may struggle to qualify for DIB the most. This is due to DIB’s work history requirements.

If your child has struggled with cognitive disorders their entire life, their work history may be spotty, inconsistent, or nonexistent. That makes for a difficult DIB case. Unfortunately, to qualify for DIB, you need to have paid Social Security payroll taxes. This typically requires working for at least five of the past ten years.

However, some adults with special needs may qualify if they have the work history. For example, if your adult child was working but had to stop due to their condition getting worse, they may be eligible. If your adult child didn’t become disabled until they were an adult — as a result of an accident, for example — then the work they did before their accident would count toward DIB’s work history requirement.

Keep in mind that work history requirements are only half the battle. You also have to prove that your adult child cannot do any work whatsoever due to their disability. Many companies hire adults with special needs and accommodate their disabilities to ensure a safe, healthy work environment for them. If your adult child has taken advantage of programs like those offered at The Arc, it’s likely that they may have connections within the community that could find or create a position for them that fits their abilities.

Adults with Special Needs and SSI


Most adults with special needs qualify for disability benefits under SSI. SSI has no work requirements, but it does have household income limitations.

For some adults with special needs, this creates a problem. If your adult child lives with you, then Social Security counts your income when evaluating if your child meets their income limitations. Household income limitations take into account all of the money coming into the house, regardless of how those people are related to your adult child. Even if your adult child is simply living with a random roommate, that roommate’s income would be counted.

As with DIB, you also have to prove that your adult child with special needs cannot perform any work.

Help Applying for DIB from Hensley Legal Group

Hensley Legal Group does not typically handle SSI cases, but if your adult child is applying for DIB (also known as Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI), we may be able to help. Call our office today or contact us online for a free conversation about your child’s claim.