Childhood SSI and the Domain of “Caring for Yourself”

     Persons applying for childhood SSI benefits for their disabled child often are confused by how the Social Security Administration evaluates and decides the claim. If a child does not meet a Listing, the SSA evaluates the child’s functioning in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for yourself; and (6) health and physical well-being to see whether there is extreme or marked limitations.

     This entry dealing with Caring for Yourself is the fifth in a six part series.  In this domain, SSA considers how well you maintain a healthy emotional and physical state, including how well you get your physical and emotional wants and needs met in appropriate ways; how you cope with stress and changes in your environment; and whether you take care of your own health, possessions, and living area.

     Caring for yourself effectively, which includes regulating yourself, depends upon your ability to respond to changes in your emotions and the daily demands of your environment to help yourself and cooperate with others in taking care of your personal needs, health and safety. It is characterized by a sense of independence and competence. The effort to become independent and competent should be observable throughout your childhood.

     Caring for yourself effectively means becoming increasingly independent in making and following your own decisions. This entails relying on your own abilities and skills, and displaying consistent judgment about the consequences of caring for yourself. As you mature, using and testing your own judgment helps you develop confidence in your independence and competence. Caring for yourself includes using your independence and competence to meet your physical needs, such as feeding, dressing, toileting, and bathing, appropriately for your age.

     Caring for yourself effectively requires you to have a basic understanding of your body, including its normal functioning, and of your physical and emotional needs. To meet these needs successfully, you must employ effective coping strategies, appropriate to your age, to identify and regulate your feelings, thoughts, urges, and intentions. Such strategies are based on taking responsibility for getting your needs met in an appropriate and satisfactory manner.

     Caring for yourself means recognizing when you are ill, following recommended treatment, taking medication as prescribed, following safety rules, responding to your circumstances in safe and appropriate ways, making decisions that do not endanger yourself, and knowing when to ask for help from others.

     Newborns and infants (birth to attainment of age 1. Your sense of independence and competence begins in being able to recognize your body’s signals (e.g., hunger, pain, discomfort), to alert your caregiver to your needs (e.g., by crying), and to console yourself (e.g., by sucking on your hand) until help comes. As you mature, your capacity for self-consolation should expand to include rhythmic behaviors (e.g., rocking). Your need for a sense of competence also emerges in things you try to do for yourself, perhaps before you are ready to do them, as when insisting on putting food in your mouth and refusing your caregiver’s help.

     Older infants and toddlers (age 1 to attainment of age 3). As you grow, you should be trying to do more things for yourself that increase your sense of independence and competence in your environment. You might console yourself by carrying a favorite blanket with you everywhere. You should be learning to cooperate with your caregivers when they take care of your physical needs, but you should also want to show what you can do; e.g., pointing to the bathroom, pulling off your coat. You should be experimenting with your independence by showing some degree of contrariness (e.g., “No! No!”) and identity (e.g., hoarding your toys).

     Preschool children (age 3 to attainment of age 6). You should want to take care of many of your physical needs by yourself (e.g., putting on your shoes, getting a snack), and also want to try doing some things that you cannot do fully (e.g., tying your shoes, climbing on a chair to reach something up high, taking a bath). Early in this age range, it may be easy for you to agree to do what your caregiver asks. Later, that may be difficult for you because you want to do things your way or not at all. These changes usually mean that you are more confident about your ideas and what you are able to do. You should also begin to understand how to control behaviors that are not good for you (e.g., crossing the street without an adult).

     School-age children (age 6 to attainment of age 12). You should be independent in most day-to-day activities (e.g., dressing yourself, bathing yourself), although you may still need to be reminded sometimes to do these routinely. You should begin to recognize that you are competent in doing some activities and that you have difficulty with others. You should be able to identify those circumstances when you feel good about yourself and when you feel bad. You should begin to develop understanding of what is right and wrong, and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. You should begin to demonstrate consistent control over your behavior, and you should be able to avoid behaviors that are unsafe or otherwise not good for you. You should begin to imitate more of the behavior of adults you know.

     Adolescents (age 12 to attainment of age 18). You should feel more independent from others and should be increasingly independent in all of your day-to-day activities. You may sometimes experience confusion in the way you feel about yourself. You should begin to notice significant changes in your body’s development, and this can result in anxiety or worrying about yourself and your body. Sometimes these worries can make you feel angry or frustrated. You should begin to discover appropriate ways to express your feelings, both good and bad (e.g., keeping a diary to sort out angry feelings or listening to music to calm yourself down). You should begin to think seriously about your future plans, and what you will do when you finish school.

     Examples of limited functioning in caring for yourself:

  • You continue to place non-nutritive or inedible objects in your mouth.
  • You often use self-soothing activities showing developmental regression (e.g., thumbsucking, re-chewing food), or you have restrictive or stereotyped mannerisms (e.g., body rocking, headbanging).
  • You do not dress or bathe yourself appropriately for your age because you have an impairment(s) that affects this domain.
  • You engage in self-injurious behavior (e.g., suicidal thoughts or actions, self-inflicted injury, or refusal to take your medication), or you ignore safety rules.
  • You do not spontaneously pursue enjoyable activities or interests.
  • You have disturbance in eating or sleeping patterns.

     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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