Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two different programs that the federal government maintains to help disabled individuals obtain much-needed income and medical benefits. Because of the rules of entitlement, many young people on the autism spectrum aren’t entitled to benefits while they are minors — but that may change as soon as the child becomes a legal adult, at 18 years of age.

More than likely, your adult child will be able to file for SSI, which is a needs-based program for the disabled. It’s also possible that your child may be entitled to file as a Disabled Adult Child (DAC) on your Social Security record. The determination for eligibility is usually made at the Social Security Administration’s office when you file.

If your autistic child is about to become an adult, here are some things you should consider doing before you file a claim:

1. Gather up all of your child’s medical records.

To have a successful application for SSD or SSI, you need to show evidence of your child’s condition. Getting the records from the autism center where they were diagnosed, records from therapists and records from your family physician can help speed the claim along.

2. Get your child’s school records together.

Every autistic is unique, so you need to demonstrate exactly how your child’s condition is limiting. Much of that information may be contained in your Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or other agreements made with the school. Report cards, letters from teachers and communications from the school’s therapist may also be useful.

3. Gather any legal paperwork you may have.

The parents of autistics often seek legal guardianship over their children in order to better protect or assist them as they transition to the adult world. If you’ve sought guardianship over your child and it was granted, those papers are important to include with your application. Filing a claim for SSI or SSD for your adult autistic child can be stressful and frustrating. If you’re struggling to get through the process or the claim is denied, find out more about the available legal assistance.