In recent decades, the number of U.S. children diagnosed with disabling conditions like autism and ADHD has dramatically increased. One factor contributing to the increase in children diagnosed with ADHD and autism is a sharp increase in the prevelence of these disorders. In response, medical providers routinely screen young children for these types of conditions with hopes that early intervention and therapy can be effective in helping an affected child learn to cope with and manage their disorder.

In general, today a greater percentage of U.S. children have been diagnosed with a disabling cognitive disorder. It makes sense, therefore, that a proportionate amount of these children are members of families who live in poverty.

In 1974, the Social Security Administration formed a program know as Supplemental Security Income. The program was created to serve the needs of disabled children and adults who live below the poverty line. Today, the number of U.S. children receiving SSI benefits has increased to 1.3 million.

The SSI program provides financial aid to the families of disabled children. Without these monthly benefits, which average $640 per month, many of these families would not be able to provide a child with the medical attention he or she needs or with basic necessities like food, housing and clothing.

Critics of the program believe those who benefit are intentionally not working and choosing instead to live off the federal government. These individuals, however, fail to understand the realities that accompany raising and providing for a disabled child, much less attempting to do so on a limited income.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Aid to disabled children now outstrips welfare As SSI expands, debate intensifies,” Patricia Wen, Aug. 28, 2014