“There is a neurological condition called theASD, or autism. It affects a person’s ability to learn.”

In the United States, 1 in 44 children have autism. It often appears before the age of 2. However, it can be diagnosed at any time in life, including adulthood.

The medical and legal opinions on the condition of the person with the disability are different. Mental health professionals say that not everyone with the condition identifies as disabled.

We will look at the different perspectives of the disability of autism.

What is autism?

There are a number of neurological and developmental conditions called theautism. The symptoms can vary in severity and type.

“There are no medical tests that can help diagnose the condition. Doctors look at a person’s behavior and development.”

The doctor will make a diagnosis if the symptoms meet certain criteria.

Language matters

When speaking about disability, it’s important to be mindful of language. That’s because certain words can perpetuate negative connotations about people and their experiences. Specifically, the current social model of disability suggests it’s something to be “fixed” or “cured.” It also implies people with disabilities are unable to lead fulfilling and successful lives. Fortunately, it’s possible to dispel these notions by thinking about how we speak about disabilities. For more guidance, read our guide on talking with people with disabilities and health conditions.

It is important to know the difference between disorder and disability in order to understand the different perspectives of the disorder.

A disorder is a health condition that affects the function of the mind or body. A mental disorder involves cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues.

From a medical perspective, autism is a mental disorder. This is due to the neurological, psychological, and social impacts it can have on one’s life, says Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS, psychotherapist and founder of Pruden Counseling Concepts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a disability is “any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities and interact with the world around them.”

The term disability is used to describe the condition of the person with the condition. It can be difficult for a person to navigate normal norms.

How is autism a medical disability?

“Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability, meaning it’s caused by differences in the development of the brain,” explains Matthew Edelstein, PsyD, BCBA-D, psychologist at Choosing Therapy. Typically, this causes delays in learning and development.

The experience of people with a neurological condition.

  • Social communication and interaction are difficult.
  • Repetitive behaviors or interests are restricted.
  • Learning skills include delayed language, movement, or cognitive skills.
  • Paying attention is hard.

These characteristics can make it difficult for people with a neurological condition to interact in social settings. It is considered a medical disability.

The characteristics of the disorder vary depending on type and severity. There are a variety of symptoms.

The degree of disability depends on the severity of the symptoms.

The legal definition of a disability is that of a mental illness.

This means autistic people are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a law, not a program. This means there’s no need to apply for coverage or benefits.

Sharon Kaye-O’Connor, LCSW, psychotherapist at Choosing Therapy, explains that autistic people are legally entitled to various benefits. This includes reasonable accommodations at school and in the workplace.

“According to Kaye-O’Connor and Pruden, there are accommodations.”

  • Like a trainer, sensory support.
  • Smaller classes are adjusted to the environment.
  • Flexibility of location is like working from home.
  • Schedules modified
  • Individualized instruction outside of class.

“Some people might be eligible for disability benefits. Kaye-O’Connor says that these include social security, Medicaid, and support of a caregivers.”

“The medical and legal opinions on the condition of the child with the name of the disease, autism, are different. This isn’t always the case when it comes to self-identification.”

“Some people with a neurological condition identify as being disabled, while others don’t. This may depend on a number of factors.”

Level of support needed

People who need a lot of support might see themselves as disabled.

There are people who may need less support and people who do not see themselves as disabled.


“A person’s environment affects their identification as disabled. Kaye-O’Connor says that the environment can play a huge role in determining our comfort and ability to thrive.”

“Some people might identify with the social model of disability. Kaye-O’Connor said that they might feel that their challenges are due to living in an environment that wasn’t created with their needs in mind.”

Changing social perspectives

The narrative about the two disorders is changing. Pruden notes that there is a growing group of people who view their condition as a strength.

These people are advocates for themselves and others to be seen as capable and accepted.

Every person with the condition is unique and free to identify in their own way. Many high-functioning individuals with the condition prefer to identify with their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Being aware of language can help support these more positive perspectives.

The range of neurological differences is referred to as diversity. Neurological traits that are not typical are called “neurodivergence.”

It is important to speak with a child about their own neurological issues. This will help them understand their needs. It will ensure they are cared for.

Pruden believes in honesty when speaking with your child. She suggests sharing information in a way that is appropriate to their age and development.

Tips for talking about neurodivergence

Pruden suggests that you use the following script to discuss your own neurological issues with your child on the spectrum.

“You are such an awesome individual. Remember when we took you to (insert professional’s name) because we had some concerns about (insert symptoms here)? Well, it turns out you have a wiring issue. Your brain is wired differently from other folks. That doesn’t make you bad, unworthy, or (insert other negative adjectives that may have been used to describe your child). It just means your brain works differently. Now, (insert names of parents, caretakers, or professionals) are going to help you live a fun life. There will be some challenges, but you have support.”

You can explain to older kids how to use operating systems like Windows and MacOS.

“Kaye-O’Connor says that the operating system works differently. There are different types of brains, just as there are different types of operating systems for computers. Each type of brain has its own strengths, challenges, and needs.”

This way of explaining the condition can make it seem like it is a different way of functioning.

People with a disability are eligible for government benefits. The benefits are available on a state and federal level.

State government benefits for autism

Many states offer a Medicaid Waiver. This program is for people with disabilities.

The exact benefits vary by state.

  • Financial aid.
  • There is access to healthcare.
  • transportation
  • In- home support.

You can find these resources on the state website.

Federal government benefits for autism

According to Edelstein, autistic people can receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is a federal benefit program for low-income people with disabilities, regardless of age, Edelstein says.

Adults who have worked in the past can also receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

You can apply for both SSI and SSDI on the website.

From a legal and medical standpoint, it is considered a disability for people with the condition. The condition makes it difficult for a person to interact with their environment. People with a disability are eligible for benefits.

“Some people on the spectrum do not identify as disabled. A person’s self-identification depends on a number of factors, including their limitations and level of support.”

“It is important to be aware of your health conditions when speaking. If a person on the spectrum identifies as disabled, that doesn’t mean they need to be cured.”

Mental health professionals can help you with the condition.