What does Social Security Consider When Looking at a Child’s Ability to Aquire and Use Information?

     When someone applies for childhood SSI benefts, often the Social Security Administration looks at “domains of functioning.”  The entry will be the first in a six part series looking at the different domains of functioning the SSA evaluates in determining childood SSI eligibility.   

     A child will be found to be disabled if he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, Pt. B.  20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d).  If an impairment does not “meet” a listed impairment, disability may nonetheless be established if the child’s impairment is medically or functionally equivalent to a listed impairment.  By “functionally equal the listings,” the impairment(s) must be of listing-level severity; i.e., it must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain, as explained in this section. The SSA will assess the functional limitations caused by your impairment(s); i.e., what you cannot do, have difficulty doing, need help doing, or are restricted from doing because of your impairment(s).  They will assess the interactive and cumulative effects of all of the impairments, including any impairments that are not “severe.”  The SSA will consider all the relevant factors in §§ 416.924a, 416.924b, and 416.929 including, but not limited to:

(1) How well the child can initiate and sustain activities, how much extra help you need, and the effects of structured or supportive settings (see § 416.924a(b)(5));

(2) How the child functions in school (see § 416.924a(b)(7)); and

(3) The effects of the child’s medications or other treatment (see § 416.924a(b)(9)).

     The SSA will consider how the child functions in activities in terms of six domains.  The domains are:

  • Acquiring and using information;
  • Attending and completing tasks;
  • Interacting and relating with others:
  • Moving about and manipulating objects;
  • Caring for yourself; and,
  • Health and physical well-being.

     Acquiring and using information. In this domain, SSA considers how well the child acquires or learns information, and how well she uses the information learned.  Learning and thinking begin at birth. You learn as you explore the world through sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. As you play, you acquire concepts and learn that people, things, and activities have names. This lets you understand symbols, which prepares you to use language for learning. Using the concepts and symbols you have acquired through play and learning experiences, you should be able to learn to read, write, do arithmetic, and understand and use new information.  Thinking is the application or use of information you have learned. It involves being able to perceive relationships, reason, and make logical choices. People think in different ways. When you think in pictures, you may solve a problem by watching and imitating what another person does. When you think in words, you may solve a problem by using language to talk your way through it. You must also be able to use language to think about the world and to understand others and express yourself; e.g., to follow directions, ask for information, or explain something.

     Newborns and young infants (birth to attainment of age 1). At this age, you should show interest in, and explore, your environment. At first, your actions are random; for example, when you accidentally touch the mobile over your crib. Eventually, your actions should become deliberate and purposeful, as when you shake noisemaking toys like a bell or rattle. You should begin to recognize, and then anticipate, routine situations and events, as when you grin with expectation at the sight of your stroller. You should also recognize and gradually attach meaning to everyday sounds, as when you hear the telephone or your name. Eventually, you should recognize and respond to familiar words, including family names and what your favorite toys and activities are called.

     Older infants and toddlers (age 1 to attainment of age 3). At this age, you are learning about the world around you. When you play, you should learn how objects go together in different ways. You should learn that by pretending, your actions can represent real things. This helps you understand that words represent things, and that words are simply symbols or names for toys, people, places, and activities. You should refer to yourself and things around you by pointing and eventually by naming. You should form concepts and solve simple problems through purposeful experimentation (e.g., taking toys apart), imitation, constructive play (e.g., building with blocks), and pretend play activities. You should begin to respond to increasingly complex instructions and questions, and to produce an increasing number of words and grammatically correct simple sentences and questions.

     Preschool children (age 3 to attainment of age 6). When you are old enough to go to preschool or kindergarten, you should begin to learn and use the skills that will help you to read and write and do arithmetic when you are older. For example, listening to stories, rhyming words, and matching letters are skills needed for learning to read. Counting, sorting shapes, and building with blocks are skills needed to learn math. Painting, coloring, copying shapes, and using scissors are some of the skills needed in learning to write. Using words to ask questions, give answers, follow directions, describe things, explain what you mean, and tell stories allows you to acquire and share knowledge and experience of the world around you. All of these are called “readiness skills,” and you should have them by the time you begin first grade.

     School-age children (age 6 to attainment of age 12). When you are old enough to go to elementary and middle school, you should be able to learn to read, write, and do math, and discuss history and science. You will need to use these skills in academic situations to demonstrate what you have learned; e.g., by reading about various subjects and producing oral and written projects, solving mathematical problems, taking achievement tests, doing group work, and entering into class discussions. You will also need to use these skills in daily living situations at home and in the community (e.g., reading street signs, telling time, and making change). You should be able to use increasingly complex language (vocabulary and grammar) to share information and ideas with individuals or groups, by asking questions and expressing your own ideas, and by understanding and responding to the opinions of others.

     Adolescents (age 12 to attainment of age 18). In middle and high school, you should continue to demonstrate what you have learned in academic assignments (e.g., composition, classroom discussion, and laboratory experiments). You should also be able to use what you have learned in daily living situations without assistance (e.g., going to the store, using the library, and using public transportation). You should be able to comprehend and express both simple and complex ideas, using increasingly complex language (vocabulary and grammar) in learning and daily living situations (e.g., to obtain and convey information and ideas). You should also learn to apply these skills in practical ways that will help you enter the workplace after you finish school (e.g., carrying out instructions, preparing a job application, or being interviewed by a potential employer).

     If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI matter, personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), EEOICPA claim, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation.  We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, through Facebook, or through our website.  Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, ChattanoogaKingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, and Deer Lodge.


About farmerdreiser

Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser provide comprehensive representation to injured victims throughout eastern Tennessee in personal injury, Social Security disability, and workers' compensation cases.
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