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Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, which could emerge in both children and adults, account for about 14 percent of all Social Security Disability beneficiaries. Many IDD applicants are working, but their wages are usually low. As a result, many more intellectually diabled individuals live in poverty than people with physical disabilities.

Concerns about IDD services abound in the coronavirus era. The Centers for Disease Control recently launched a program targeting IDD individuals which touts the benefits of things like hand-washing, testing, mask-wearing, and vaccination. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can experience communication barriers that make it harder for them to understand and act on crucial health guidance,” explained Dr. Karen Remley, who directs the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The aim of these materials is to help people with IDD, their parents and other caregivers share critical information with their loved ones about COVID-19 and what to expect when getting a COVID-19 test or vaccine and explain how to stay safe if they are not vaccinated.”

On a related note, there is a direct connection between coronavirus and IDD. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson contracted the Spanish Flu when he was in Europe for the peace negotiations which ended World War I. The flu affected his mind as well as his body. These symptoms may have even included “psychotic delusions and visions that resulted from damage to the nervous system,” one historian asserted.

Our society often treats people with intellectual disabilities differently from people with physical disabilities. Most people are very sympathetic toward physically disabled people, but they often have little tolerance for intellectual disabilities. At the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, our disability lawyers (SSI lawyers near me) treat everyone equally and with personal respect. We not only help families obtain the benefits they need and deserve. We can help open doors to available services that help these individuals live more independent lives throughout Memphis and the entire Mid-South region and beyond. 

Breaking Down Some Common IDDs

Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), and Fragile X syndrome are among the most common childhood IDDs. Typically, these conditions are associated with prenatal or birthing issues. 

Fragile X and Down’s are genetic conditions. The brain of a Fragile X child does not produce the fragile X mental retardation protein, a chemical necessary for brain development. Down’s Syndrome children have an extra chromosome. That triggers distinctive physical effects as well as intellectual delays. 

Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) during birth usually causes Cerebral Palsy, which is a permanent bodily injury. Mild CP children often have no fine motor skills. For example, they may not be able to button their own coats or brush their own teeth. In extreme cases, CP children are essentially prisoners inside their own bodies.

The science is still emerging with regard to ASD. Most researchers believe that it could be either a genetic or injury-related condition. 

These IDDs primarily affect the nervous system. Preterm babies often have sensory issues. They often have trouble hearing and/or seeing. Others avoid personal contact. Some prenatal or childhood infections, including cytomegalovirus, often have similar effects. PKU (Phenylketonuria) is a rare metabolism disorder. Phenylalanine amino acids build up in the body. Excessive levels of this amino acid alter brain chemistry.

Hospitals routinely screen newborns for PKU, Down’s Syndrome, and some other IDDs which are relatively easy to detect with a blood or other test. However, many IDDs are almost impossible to detect, especially in very young children. Some common symptoms include missed milestones, such as:

  • Walking, crawling, or sitting up later than other children of a similar age,
  • Memory issues,
  • Speech impediment,
  • Antisocial behavior (e.g. not playing well with others), and
  • Inability to solve basic problems.

A missed milestone does not automatically mean your child is intellectually disabled. All children develop at their own pace. However, a missed milestone is definitely a red flag. Heermans Law firm (SSA law firm) usually recommends concerned parents consult with their physician who can usually confirm, or rule out, an IDD.

Older children and adults sometimes develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DIsorder. The average ADHD diagnosis age is seven. In some cases, this condition could be genetic. More commonly, environmental factors, like lead poisoning or mothers who smoked during pregnancy, cause ADHD. This condition could be disabling, as outlined below. However, often effective medication can be available. A quick word about some practical effects of childhood ADHD and Social Security Disability benefits. School nurses and other such professionals may “diagnose” children like Bobby Hill with ADHD based on questionable evidence. Given the loose SSA disability definition, as outlined below, these children might qualify for benefits. However, careful consideration of a stigma factor and other future social and educational limitations should be thoughtfully weighed out by parents/caregivers and their child’s medical professionals.

Obtaining Benefits

The traditional “disability” definition, which is basically an inability to work because of a severe physical, emotional, mental, or other disability, obviously does not apply to children. Generally, children are disabled, as far as the SSA is concerned, if they:

  • Are substantially behind their peers in terms of problem-solving, learning ability, and/or other intellectual functions, and
  • Have issues regarding life skills, social skills, and other adaptive behaviors.

The D-word is largely ceremonial for children. Usually, a Claims Examiner awards benefits if the child has a current diagnosis of a recognized disability and medication is unavailable. Typically, childhood benefits end at age 18 or when the child graduates from high school.

Additionally, the condition must be severe. The S-word has a dual meaning in this context. The condition must be fatal or expected to last at least twelve months. IDDs are rarely fatal, but they are often degenerative. Cerebral Palsy is probably the biggest exception. This condition never gets worse, but it will never improve either. Furthermore, the condition must “significantly limit” everyday activities, such as walking, talking, or remembering. Phrases like “significantly limit” are quite subjective, especially since many IDD individuals have good days and bad days.

To find out more about the disability process, contact the SSI disability lawyers in Memphis at Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm.  We understand the stress and concern parents/caregivers experience with a disabled child and do our best to provide support to the entire family during the process required to apply for disability benefits. If your child has been denied disability benefits contact us as well. We provide a FREE disability benefits evaluation. Give us a call or text 24/7 at (901) 244-0057.


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