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Cannon Disability Law, Social Security Disability Attorneys WHAT ARE THE SIX CHILDHOOD DISABILITY DOMAINS ?

In order to win SSI or childhood disability benefits, you must be familiar with the six domains the SSA uses to describe childhood impairments. The six domains are listed and outlined below. If your child’s disability does not meet a listing, then one can turn to the domains to show that the child has a disabling impairment.

In order to be found to have a disability, the child must have two “marked” impairments or one “extreme” impairment in a domain area. For example, if you look at the domain “Acquiring and Using Information,” you will see that a child might have an “extreme” impairment if they cannot use speech to explain things or form sentences.  The severity of the domain impairment depends upon the child’s age and whether or not they have age appropriate behavior.  Often, the parent can testify as to domain limitations. Additionally, good evidence about the domains is easy to secure from teachers, tutors, counselors, or even other family members. Click here to learn more about SSI Benefits for Children.


SSA uses the following domains to break apart physical and mental tasks. If you child is having problems with any of the tasks or elements below, they may have a disability. In order to be found disabled, the child must have two marked impairments or one extreme impairment. Typically, a parent and the child’s teachers fill out forms documenting the child’s impairments in each area. A parent can also testify at the child’s disability hearing.  Each domain below has examples of how a marked or extreme impairment in that domain might exist.

1)  Acquiring and Using Information

This domain centers upon how well a child is able to learn and acquire information and then how well he or she is able to apply this information. As children develop, they should acquire skills in communication, literacy, reasoning and arithmetic. These skills should continue to develop and progress throughout the child’s life.

A marked or extreme limitation may exist if the child:

  • Does not understand how things relate through size, space or time
  • Cannot rhyme words
  • Has difficulty retaining information about important concepts
  • Cannot solve simple arithmetic problems
  • Or cannot explain things and speaks primarily in concise sentences

2)  Attending and Completing Tasks

This domain centers on the child’s ability to focus and keep attention on a task. This focuses on the child’s ability to start a task, continue it and complete it at a normal pace based on his or her age. While children may get distracted, they should be able to retain focus on a given task. It is important that a child be able to follow instructions and complete assignments in a timely manner.

A marked or extreme limitation may be present in the following situations, if a child:

  • is easily distracted or overreacts to sensory impulses
  • has trouble focusing on a task or cannot finish an activity
  • becomes easily frustrated, causing him or her to give up on tasks
  • requires extra supervision to stay engaged with an activity
  • often interrupts others or is sidetracked from his or her activity

3)  Interacting and Relating with Others

A child is expected to interact well with his or her peers, follow rules and respond to authority. He or she should be able to develop personal relationships with others, such as parents, peers and teachers. He or she should also know that there are social rules and laws that regulate behavior and should be able to comply with them.

A severe or extreme limitation may be present when a child:

  • Does not have close friends of the same age
  • Avoids contact with others, including those whom he or she intimately knows
  • Does not reach out to his or her parents to be picked up
  • Has problems following rules for age-based activities like sports or board games
  • Struggles with expressing emotions, maintaining a conversation or requesting help
  • Experiences difficulties with sufficient fluency when speaking

4)  Moving About and Manipulating Objects

This domain focuses on the use of gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve moving your arms and legs. For example, you use your arms and legs in activities like crawling and running. Fine motor skills are smaller movements, such as the movement of your fingers or toes. For example, you use fine motor skills when you are grasping or writing.

A marked or extreme limitation may be present if the child has:

  •  sensory loss, joint stiffness or muscle weakness
  • problems coordinating gross or fine motor movement
  • difficulty maintaining balance or climbing stairs
  • poor hand-eye coordination when using utensils or tools

5)   Caring for Self

A child should be able to take care of himself or herself as he or she ages. Children learn how to take care of their own personal needs, health and safety as they get older and mature. This domain also explores how a child deals with changes in his or her environment.

A severe or extreme limitation may be present when the child:

  • Tries to eat inedible items
  • Is unable to bathe or dress himself or herself, based on age
  • Has regressive behaviors
  • Does not try to entertain himself or herself
  • Does not follow safety rules
  • Has problems eating or sleeping

6)  Health and Physical Well-Being

This domain considers the physical effects of a child’s impairment and treatment. A marked or severe limitation may be present if the child:

  • Requires intensive medical treatment to maintain his or her health and well-being
  • Suffers from physical limitations due to medication or treatment
  • Has other physical manifestations, such as agitation, lethargy, dizziness or weakness


If you are parent reading this information, know that it is your job to produce evidence about domain impairments. You can do it. Especially if you understand the domain areas. Evidence can be medical records from your child’s doctor. But, evidence can also be from professionals who know your child. For example, a teacher or counselor at school can testify about your child’s behavior, social isolation, or difficulty concentrating. Your child may have a Sunday school teacher or a tutor at school who could give insight into your child’s issues.  Do not overlook any source of evidence.  If you have questions or concerns about filing for SSI benefits for your child, call Cannon Disability Law. We can help.

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