(Editor’s note: This post was written by commenter K, a gifted writer who’s part of the crew filling in for me while I’m on vacation.)
My daughter, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was just declared eligible for SSI benefits! Yay! She is now officially disabled!
It’s a shaky kind of celebration. For us, it didn’t take so terribly long, just a year this time. She/we/I applied a few years ago, but it looked like she was going to make it, go to school, settle into a functional life, so I let it slip, until someone explained to me what “Wexler GAF” and a score between 40 and 50 meant. I’m guessing it’s all for the best, because in the meantime we moved to a bigger town and into public housing with more available services, stores within walking distance, and our rent is based on income.
Income. Her monthly federal benefit is short of $700. But – and this is the big kicker – she’s eligible for service, as long as she doesn’t earn too much. Somebody to go to work with her, help her settle in, negotiate with her supervisors. Medical Assistance, of course. Glasses and dentists and maybe more physical therapy for her back (a side of scoliosis, please). Maybe she can get to a podiatrist to find out why her shoes wear so crookedly.
In other words, I don’t have to worry so much.
Her father is around, at least physically, and occasionally. We’ve heard him talk about some of the disabled people in his town. He gets a harsh edge in his voice, talking about how they’re always whining about being broke and if they can work ten hours a week they could work forty and get off welfare – Daughter and I just look at each other.
Yeah. Up here where I live it’s called the nut-pension check. It’s hard to fight that, fight ideas in the heads of people who work hard and feel cheated and want to take it out on someone, want to make sure everybody around them is as beat up as they are, people who can’t see into other people’s lives, or feel the ocean we’re all swimming in. And this perception gets internalized by the people who need the help, so they walk around with their heads down, acting out crooked from the weight of the world.
But. Now that she’s eligible for support, Daughter will get a part-time job soon. It won’t pay well, but it will get her out of the house, get her people to interact with, give her that little bit of belonging. She got a state ID this time instead of renewing her permit, accepting that maybe she won’t learn to drive. Accepting a different life, perhaps, but one where she can shine.
And for me, the knowledge that she will be safe.
Yay! My daughter is officially disabled! A load of weight falls away.