Financial Assistance At Camp

Many parents ask how they can apply for financial assistance to pay for camp.  There are several programs that your family may check into as a resource:

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits With Special Needs 

If your child has special needs, he or she may be eligible for financial assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial aid to people in need. Many children with special needs are medically eligible for benefits. Technically speaking, it can be tough for children to financially qualify for benefits.

Financially Qualifying for Benefits

All children are eligible for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These benefits are only provided to the most financially needy US families. This means that if you or a spouse earns a decent living, your child will not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The larger your family, the higher your income threshold will be.

For example, a single parent with one child cannot earn more than $38,000 per year while still qualifying. A family of five could earn up to $55,000. You can review your family’s specific monthly pre-tax income limit online on the SSA’s website.

Unfortunately, most children are denied SSI benefits due to a household’s income limits. The good news is once your child turns 18 your income will no longer count against her, even if your child still lives at home.


Medically Qualifying for SSI

The SSA maintains its own criteria for qualification online, known colloquially as the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book outlines exactly what test results or symptoms your child needs to qualify for benefits. All listings for children with special needs would be found under Section 112.00 of the Blue Book—mental disorders. Every diagnosis has different qualifying criteria.

For example, a child with autism will need medical documentation of both of the following to qualify:

·         Severe limitations in ability to verbally or nonverbally communicate, AND

·         Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and hobbies

Additionally, a child with autism will also need medical evidence proving an extreme limitation of any one, or significant limitation in any two areas of intellectual functioning:

·         Understanding, remembering, or applying learned information

·         Interacting with others

·         Concentrating and completing tasks

·         “Adapting oneself,” which means controlling emotions in appropriate settings

Other intellectual disabilities will qualify, but will have slightly different eligibility criteria. For example, children with bipolar disorder will need medical evidence of any three of the following symptoms:

·         Pressured speech

·         Flight of ideas

·         Inflated self-esteem

·         Lack of sleep

·         Easily distracted

·         Involvement in dangerous activities

·         Increased physical movement/agitation

In addition to having three of the above symptoms, your child must have extreme difficulties with one of the following areas of mental function (the same criteria as those with autism):

·         Understanding, remembering, or applying learned information

·         Interacting with others

·         Concentrating and completing tasks

·         “Adapting oneself,” which means controlling emotions in appropriate settings

There are dozens of potentially qualifying conditions listed in the Blue Book. To determine if your child medically qualifies for SSI benefits, you should review the Blue Book with your child’s doctor.

Starting Your Application

If you’ve decided to apply for disability benefits on behalf of a child, you should always review the Child Disability Starter Kit first. This online resource outlines all the paperwork and medical information you’ll need to apply successfully.

All parents must apply for SSI benefits on behalf of their child in person at their closest Social Security office. There are more than 1,300 SSA offices located across the country. To make an appointment to apply in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

Helpful Resources:

SSI Income Thresholds:

Mental Disorders:

Local SSA Offices:

Child Disability Starter Kit: