Is your adult family member who lives with autism having trouble fitting into the workplace? Some adults with autism, even those with high-functioning autism, have difficulty finding work and adjusting to the workplace.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range, or spectrum, of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors, pervasive interests, and, in some cases, cognitive delays. Individuals with autism may have strong sensitivities to textures, sounds, or smells. They may become overstimulated by crowds, lights, or noise. They may engage in repetitive or limited behaviors.

Every person living with autism is different. Some adults with autism are able to hold jobs and raise families. Others are unable to speak or care for themselves. Most autistic adults are somewhere in between.

Young adults with autism can find social interactions challenging. The norms that most of us take for granted don’t make sense. This can make co-workers and employers uncomfortable.

Sensitivities are another challenge. That faint background hum that you don’t notice may be overwhelming to an autistic employee. The smell of co-worker’s perfume can be a major distraction. Even a simple task like returning shopping carts can be too much for a person who is sensitive to crowds.

An  adult living with autism who is not able to work can apply for Social Security benefits. To qualify under disability listing 12.10, Autism spectrum disorder, an applicant must have a medical diagnosis of autism (from a doctor or psychologist, not from a school) with documentation of all of the following:

  1. Qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction
  2. Significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities

The applicant must also show extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:

  1. Understand, remember, or apply information
  2. Interact with others 
  3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  4. Adapt or manage oneself

It can be difficult to prove that the limitations of autism directly affect an applicant’s ability to hold a job for pay. Many autistic individuals seem “normal” at first glance. Most individuals don't meet the strict criteria of a listing but may qualify for benefits based on the inability to perform any work. In order to qualify a statement of the limitations on the ability to work by a physician or psychologist is necessary.

If you or a family member lives with autism and you are applying for SSI or SSDI on your or his behalf, our Omaha Social Security benefit lawyers can help with everything from paperwork to getting the documentation you need to support your claim. Our Nebraska disability lawyers can help you appeal if your initial claim has been denied. Call for a free case evaluation and learn what we can do for you, contact Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405.


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Timothy J. Cuddigan (Founder - Retired)
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Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience