Can Children with Learning Disabilities Get SSDI?

Disability Benefits

Parenting is an extremely tough job. Parents must clothe, protect, feed, educate, and love their children. But the education part is often challenging if your child has learning disabilities. You may wonder if your family is entitled to receive federal benefits to help pay for your child’s schooling and care, given the extra burden of their condition.

If this thought has crossed your mind, you are in good company. A reader of ours recently asked the following question: “My child has learning disabilities. Can they get SSDI?”



What Is SSDI?

SSDI stands for “Social Security Disability Insurance.” It is a federal benefit program that workers pay into with regular payroll tax deductions from every paycheck. SSDI can pay disability benefits to those who cannot work for at least one year for medical reasons.

Given the purpose of this program, the short answer to this reader’s question is “no.” Children with learning disabilities cannot get SSDI.

This is simply because SSDI is based on an individual’s work history. Since kids don’t work or pay Social Security payroll taxes, they cannot qualify for SSDI payments.

If Parents Already Get SSDI Benefits, What About Their Children with Learning Disabilities?

There is an exception to the answer above, however. If a parent already receives SSDI, their child may qualify to receive something called a “dependent benefit.”

Here is how it works: When adults qualify for Social Security disability benefits, their children may also qualify to receive benefits on the parent’s record. This child can be the individual’s biological child, adopted child, stepchild, or (in some cases) a dependent grandchild.

To receive SSDI benefits on a parent’s record, a child must meet at least one of the following requirements:

In most cases, SSDI benefits on a parent’s record end when a child turns 18. The exception is if the child is still a full-time student in secondary school or disabled.

Bottom Line: If you’re not able to qualify for SSDI yourself, having a disabled child isn’t enough. Disabled children cannot ever qualify for SSDI by themselves. However, they can get SSDI payments as dependents of eligible disabled workers.

Do Any Other Benefit Programs Help Children with Learning Disabilities?

Another federal benefit program called SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income, may be available to help your family. However, parents must be very poor and have a severely impaired child to qualify for SSI. This means a standard learning disability diagnosis such as ADHD or dyslexia likely isn’t enough for most kids to qualify.

What does “severely impaired” mean for parents who may wish to apply for SSI?

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), to qualify for SSI, your child must:

  • Have at least one physical or mental condition that seriously limits his or her daily activities.
  • Show that his or her severe condition(s), including learning disabilities, will last for least one year or result in death.

If this is the situation in your family and you also have limited income, savings, or other assets, your child may qualify for monthly SSI payments.

How Do I Know if My Child’s Mental Condition(s) May Qualify for SSI?

It might be helpful to review the SSA’s eligibility guidelines for childhood mental disorders. In some cases, your child or teen must meet a combination of the factors below to qualify:

  1. Depends on others for help with their daily personal needs. These include things like toileting, eating, dressing, or bathing long past the age when most children can do them independently.
  2. Has an IQ score of 70 or below according to an individually administered, standardized general intelligence test.
  3. The child or teen has significant limitations in their ability to:
    • Understand, remember, or apply information
    • Interact with other people
    • Concentrate
    • Stay on task or maintain pace with their peers
    • Adapt or manage themselves as expected when situations change

Since the rules and language around qualifying are hard to understand, it may be helpful to work with a Social Security attorney. In addition to the guidelines above, here are some examples of mental issues that may help your child qualify for SSI:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • A panic disorder, such as PTSD
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Other types of limited mental functioning, such as certain autism spectrum disorders (for example: if your child is non-verbal)
  • Learning disabilities may qualify, but only if they’re severe. If your child cannot read or complete basic math problems without one-on-one help/tutoring, for example.

A qualified disability lawyer makes your family more likely to receive benefits than applying alone. All Social Security lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing for legal assistance up front. It doesn’t hurt to talk over your family’s situation with an expert advocate. Each case is unique.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation today.

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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.