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ADHD, Benefits, and Some Tough Questions

Were you aware that ADHD can be considered a disability under Social Security guidelines? But do you think of your child as being “disabled”?

Did you know that it is possible for some ADHD children to be determined disabled by Social Security standards, thus qualifying them for monthly benefits, and in most states, for Medicaid?

A friend of mine recently took her ADHD child for an evaluation at a well-respected specialized school. She’d like to enroll him for a six week stint in their program, but the tuition is hefty, and, with the school being in another state, they’d have significant living expenses for an extended stay away from home. Although they could come up with the money — once — if they absolutely had to, choosing to spend it on this school program would be a pretty radical decision, with far-reaching financial implications, for any middle or even upper-middle class household.

So, my friend asked a school representative how other families manage to pay for their services. One answer was that they do so by going to court. Some families argue successfully that their school system is required to fund the tuition under IDEA. Others apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for their child, and then use the benefits to pay for any number of special services and treatments that aren’t covered by medical insurance, the school system, and so on.

While I’ve been extremely thankful for the government assistance (Medicaid funds through a Children’s Mental Health Waiver) we’ve received to help pay for Natalie’s services, I’ve always felt a little guilty about accepting the help. We aren’t rich, but we also aren’t destitute. Intellectually, I believe that if a program exists, and experts determine that Natalie qualifies for it, we should take advantage of it. But I still sometimes wonder: By accepting help, are we taking services away from children who need the help more than we do?

Now, I have this new dilemma. Given Natalie’s ADHD and co-existing conditions, and her school performance, I think it’s possible she would qualify for SSI benefits. But is applying for the benefits the right thing to do? Do I want to take more government money? Does our family “deserve” to? And, do I want the word “disabled” attached to my daughter, even if it’s kept confidential in some Social Security Administration computer?

I’m not going to make a decision about applying for this benefit yet. In two weeks, I have an appointment to learn the results of Natalie’s psychological testing. That will give me more information to guide my choice. And, I haven’t even mentioned the topic to my husband. He’ll need time to mull it over, get more information, and maybe even talk it over with another good friend who has a disabled child. Besides, Natalie is only nine. We can always start the application process later, if we decide to do so.

Were you aware that ADHD can be considered a disability under Social Security guidelines? Have you applied for benefits for your ADHD child? Will you look into doing so, now that you read this? Are you conflicted about whether or not you “deserve” help, or are you simply grateful when your child qualifies for assistance? Do you think of your child as being “disabled”?

It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?

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  1. I don’t understand the stigma in getting Social Security benefits to help your child. The Administrative Law Judges don’t hand out awards just because someone has applied. In fact, the process seems to be set up to discourage parents from applying. My guess is that almost all applications for ADHD children are turned down twice and must go to the hearing level before there is even a chance. While an award of benefits must be based on medical evidence, the decision is very subjective.

    My thought on this is if there’s a possibility your child might be eligible, go ahead and start the process. It takes a while to get to the point that an award can made and in the time you’re waiting, the child’s need may increase.

  2. I’m so grateful for this post. I’ve been considering applying for my 7yr old daughter. She has been diagnosed with extreme ADHD and has a very difficult time learning in school even being on an IEP. I’ve been out of work since having her because there isn’t any daycare programs in my area that have the supports that my daughter needs (One on One) I guess it wouldn’t hurt to start the process.

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