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Speech delays and SSI Disability for Children

Recently we had a question from a parent asking if their child who had a severe speech problem may be able to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Supplemental Security Income is awarded to children who are blind or disabled. To be considered disabled a child’s condition must be considered marked and severe. The SSA has a Listing of Impairments that lists all the conditions the SSA considers automatically disabling for children.

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Parents may not realize, however, that having a child with a severe impairment will not guarantee that their child will receive SSI. SSI is only for families who have VERY limited income and resources. If your child lives with the parent the SSA will consider the parent’s income when evaluating their eligibility for SSI.

What is Marked and Severe?

If the parent’s income and resources are under the allowable limit for SSI benefits the SSA will evaluate whether the child’s speech causes “marked limitations.” The listing for children with a severe speech disorder in the SSA Listing of Impairments is found under listing 102.00 Special Senses and Speech – Childhood.

According to the SSA, the child is considered to have “marked limitation” in speech if the following is present:

  • Entire phrases or sentences in the child’s conversation are intelligible to unfamiliar listeners at least 50 percent (half) of the time but no more than 67 percent (two-thirds) of the time on the child’s first attempt; and the child’s sound production or phonological patterns (the ways in which you combine speech sounds) are atypical for the child’s age.

The SSA will expect that the child has taken the appropriate testing and that their overall, “language functioning is at least two standard deviations below the mean. In addition, the evidence of the child’s daily communication functioning must be consistent with the child’s test score.”

Speech difficulties for children can include articulation deficiency, disfluency (involves the repetition of sounds, words, or phrases) or other voice disorders. Neurological disorders, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy or other severe hearing disorders can also cause children to have difficulty when speaking. If your child has another severe condition which has caused severe speech deficiencies the SSA may also evaluate their condition under another listing.

One of the most common disorders that causes severe deafness and difficult balancing is Usher’s disorders. If your child has this condition there is a high chance, assuming your family meets the resource and income limitations, that your child can get SSI benefits.

What information does the SSA need to make their Disability Decision?

Unfortunately, for many claimants who meet the SSI income and resource requirements have difficulty getting their child adequate medical care or the help they need for their speech disorder. The SSA will need medical evidence to support the case that your child has a severe speech disorder. Evidence can include standardized testing done at school, evidence from a speech therapist, or medical doctor.

Some claimants find it helpful to talk to a disability lawyer to find out if they have enough medical information to prove their child is disabled. Children who are awarded SSI disability benefits may also, in most states, get Medicaid benefits at the time they are approved for SSI benefits.
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