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How to Get Financial Help for Special Needs Children

How to Get Financial Help for Special Needs Children

Financial help for special needs children might not seem as easily available as it should be. We know raising children is costly even when things go exactly as planned; and it can become even more complicated when our children are identified as having special needs.

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Parenting is a multitude of things–exciting, nerve-wracking, inspiring, frustrating, confusing, enlightening… and expensive. We want to give our children the best of the best in anything and everything they need. This is perhaps even more true, and more difficult, when we learn about special needs our children have.

You don’t need the added weight of financial stress while you’re navigating IEPs, doctors’ appointments, and researching different types of therapies to set up the best possible life for your special needs child.

Luckily, there are many resources available to reduce the financial burden of caring for children with special needs, allowing you to spend more time and energy focusing on loving and nurturing your child the way they need. 

Preparing to Apply for Grants

Prior to applying for financial help for special needs children, you will need gather all relevant documentation that may be required. This will include:

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  • Last 90 days of paystubs and proof of all other income
  • Previous year’s tax return for all members of the household 18 and over
  • Documentation of diagnoses
  • Quotes, invoices, or recommendations from potential providers
  • Utility bills (if seeking energy assistance)
  • Household budget

Keep in mind that organizations take time to process applications and distribute funding, and programs may have deadlines or fiscal year funding caps.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Grants

There are many organizations that provide financial relief for people who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These grants can help with many different things, such as evaluations, medications, and even recreational activities.

As you review this section, make sure to pay close attention to what each grant can be used for and who is eligible for it.

C.A.R.E. Foundation

C.A.R.E. Foundation provides financial help for special needs children and their families. If you need help with medical needs such as evaluations, medications, and therapies, as well as recreational activities like summer camps, they may be able to provide.​ These funds are paid directly to vendors for approved activities, so you will already need to know how you are going to use the grant before you apply.

Even though C.A.R.E. stands for California Autism Resource & Evaluation Foundation, this organization does serve children throughout the entire United States. You do not need to live in California to receive help from this organization.

ELIGIBILITY: This grant is given to children who have been diagnosed with autism. The child must live in the US, and have a household income of under $75,000. Proof of ASD diagnosis must be provided, as well as IRS tax forms to verify your income.

HOW TO APPLY: Use the form on the C.A.R.E. Foundation website to apply. The website notes that there are no deadlines for submission and it takes 6-8 weeks for review of applications.

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Small Steps in Speech

Small Steps in Speech provides funding to families with children who have speech and communication delays. These funds can cover speech therapy and related summer camps. Grant funds cannot cover iPads but can be used for assistive technology devices and/or applications on iPads.

This organizations serves families all over the country. If you need help finding a speech provider for this grant, you can contact your local school or visit asha.org.

ELIGIBILITY: This grant is given to children who are between the ages of 3 and 22, legal US citizens, not previous recipients of the Small Steps in Speech grant, and make under $125,000. The speech therapist being paid by the grant must be ASHA certified.

HOW TO APPLY: Download and complete the application on the Small Steps in Speech website. Mail, email, or fax the completed application to the provided contacts. Deadlines for applications are quarterly: February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation provides several types of support: gift cards for holiday assistance, iPads for children with speech and communication needs, and direct payments to social skills camps. All awards are based on availability of funding, which means applications do not guarantee you will receive support. The iPad for Kids Program recipients are randomly selected from a pool of qualified applicants.

For summer camps, this organization focuses on Aquatic Therapy (swimming camps) and Equine Therapy (working with horses), as well as other social skills camps. The ASDF provides support to families all over the United States.

The application and eligibility requirements vary by program:

  • Summer Scholarship Program: Provide the name of the camp; dates; amount needed; and date funds are due. Apply here.
  • iPad for Kids Program: Provide proof of autism diagnosis and do not apply if you have been awarded an iPad from this program in the past three years. Apply here.
  • Holiday Gift Card Program: Provide proof of autism diagnosis. Apply here.

Please note that all programs require proof of autism diagnosis.

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Autism Care Today

Autism Care Today is an organization focused on early intervention and treatment of autism. ACT provides grant funding that covers things like ABA therapy, service dogs, summer camps, occupational therapy, GPS equipment, and more. 

There are three programs: Autism Care Today, Autism Care Today for Military Families (ATMF), and Autism Care Today SOS. The ATMF grant funds are specifically allotted for military families. The ACT SOS program is for situations where applicants will be in physical danger without immediate support (up to $5,000).

Not all organizations provide funding for ABA therapy, so this is a grant you want to prioritize if you are in need of funds for ABA.

ELIGIBILITY: Income is relevant but not a disqualifying factor. Families who make under $100,000 are considered first. Provide vendor documentation stating the amount requested, which will be paid directly to the provider. For the SOS program, families must make below $45,000 a year and provide documentation demonstrating immediate and urgent need to keep everyone in the family safe.

HOW TO APPLY: The application is only open one month per year at this link on the ACT website. For the SOS program, follow the directions on the ACT SOS page any time of the year, even when applications for the other grants are not open. For all applications, consult this this checklist on the ACT website to ensure you have all relevant documentation.

Music Movement

Music Movement is an organization with several programs that aim to provide music therapy, as well as Independent Living Programs, and even a role-playing game to help kids learn how to play music! Music Movement is focused on serving kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Development Disorders, and also serves kids who are facing life-threatening illnesses, other learning disabilities, at-risk youth, and youth transitioning to adulthood.

Music Movement provides unique support like purchasing instruments for kids once they have developed an interest, and paying for independent living camps and trainings. If you’re looking for music-related support or help with the transition to adulthood, this organization might be best fit!

ELIGIBILITY: According to their website, you may be eligible for services from Music Movement if on eof the following applies:

  • You are a child or young adult with ASD; OR
  • You are a child with learning differences and development and social challenges; OR
  • You are a child facing life-threatening illnesses; OR
  • You are an at risk & inner city kid; OR
  • You are a young adult transitioning into adulthood

HOW TO APPLY: All of the programs share the same application on the Music Movement website. The programs are open for funding as of this publication. The application requires that you write about what you are seeking funding for “in detail.” It may be a good idea to write this on a separate document to save, and then copy and paste it onto the application!

Organization for Autism Research

The Organization for Autism Research supports students who are seeking post-secondary education, to include colleges, trade programs, life skills programs, and more.

Scholarships are $3,000 each and there are three different programs:

  • Schwallie Family Scholarship is for 2-year and 4-year applicants.
  • Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship is for students with a focus on two-year schools, trade schools, life skills programs, and vocational programs. These applicants typically “face daily challenges related to autism.”
  • Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color is for students of color who are attending any post-secondary program. Students of color can apply to any scholarship program, but this one is specifically set aside for applicants from underrepresented racial or ethnic minority groups.

Applicants may only apply to one of the scholarships listed. Applications for this year are due on April 22, 2024!

ELIGIBILITY: Students must be attending undergraduate programs at a post-secondary institution in the United States and must already be accepted or enrolled as a full-time student, along with having an autism spectrum diagnosis. This checklist from the website specifies diagnostic criteria.

HOW TO APPLY: You can read more about the specific scholarships on the website. Once you have determined which one is the best fit, you can fill out the application here!

Mobility-Related Diagnoses Grants

There are many organizations that provide support to families of children who have diagnoses that cause mobility impairment. Funding can be provided for wheelchairs or other equipment, treatment, therapies, camps, and even therapeutic toys!

Many of these organizations have income limit requirements. Some have age limits while others do not. Please be sure to read through the Frequently Asked Questions on the websites to ensure your best chance at being selected for funding!

Giving Angels Foundation

Giving Angels Foundation provides funding to “enhance the daily functioning of a child with a physical disability.” These funds can cover mobility-related equipment, camps, supplies, and help with family bills. Giving Angels is a 100% volunteer organization that raises funds through annual benefits events and ongoing donations. Over 90% of the funds raised by Giving Angels go directly to supporting families!

ELIGIBILITY: Children must be under the age of 21; diagnosed with any type of physical disability or illness that affects mobility; and have an annual household income of less than $50,000. Awards are up to $500, and the board votes on applications once a month.

HOW TO APPLY: As of 2/24/2024, Giving Angels is not accepting applications, and the website says to check back for an update. When they are accepting applications, you can use this link on the Giving Angels website to apply. Please gather all information related to diagnosis, income, and support needed.

United Healthcare Children’s Foundation

The United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides financial help for special needs children who have expenses that are not covered (or only partially covered) by the family’s insurance. UHCCF has awarded over $70 million to 34,000 families since its inception in 1999. Grants are limited to $5,000 per recipient per year, and $10,000 over the course of a lifetime. In order to receive the grant, the child must be covered by commercial insurance (not necessarily United Healthcare), which does not include state or federal insurance plans like Medicaid.

ELIGIBILITY: There are a number of eligibility factors and exclusions (things the grant will not cover, which are listed on the website’s eligibility requirements page). Children must be:

  • 16 years of age or younger
  • US Citizens with Social Security Numbers (TIN will not be accepted)
  • Medically insured by commercial insurance (although CHIP and Medicaid are acceptable as secondary insurances)
  • Under the care of a medical professional
  • On the caregiver’s most recent IRS 1040 form
  • From a family that meets the income requirements on the website’s eligibility requirements page.

HOW TO APPLY: Gather the most recent IRS 1040 form, electronic copies of all insurance cards for the child, and this medical condition form completed by your physician. Create and account and complete the application on the UHCCF website! NOTE: The application must be completed digitally and on a laptop or desktop; there are no paper applications and cell phones and tablets are not compatible with the application.

Friends of Man

Friends of Man is a Colorado-based nonprofit agency, but they provide limited assistance for families outside of Colorado as well. Within Colorado, Friends of Man can support with critical needs related to organ transplants, as well as emergent support to single parents experiencing income crisis due to a sudden change in income such as unemployment. Coloradans can also receive other miscellaneous support, such as hearing aids, glasses, dental care, van modifications, clothing, daycare and more.

People outside of Colorado can receive support with obtaining prostheses, wheelchairs, and medical and mobility-related items. Residents of KS, NE, NM, WY, MT, and CO can also receiving hearing aids.

Applications must be submitted by a caseworker, social worker, nurse, school professional, medical professional, clergy, etc.

ELIGIBILITY: For residents of Colorado:

  • U.S. Citizen or have five years of documented residency and work history
  • Colorado resident for at least one year
  • Total household income no greater than 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (although applicants with slightly higher income may qualify with full explanation)
  • Provide photo ID, vendor estimate, and documentation from medical professional

For residents outside of Colorado:

  • Total household income no greater than 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (although applicants with slightly higher income may qualify with full explanation)
  • Living in a stable environment (not unhoused or in institutional care)
  • A minimum of 25% payment provide by other resources on behalf of the applicant
  • U.S. Citizen or have five years of documented residency and work history
  • Provide photo ID, vendor estimate, and documentation from medical professional

HOW TO APPLY: Applicant and referring professional must both sign the application, and the application must be sent from the referring professional. Gather all relevant documentation (photo ID, vendor estimate, medical documentation, and residency/work history if necessary) and use this link from the Friends of Man for Colorado residents. Use the same process for non-Colorado residents, but use this link from the Friends of Man website.

Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation

The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation is a Wisconsin-based organization that offers grant funding to any US Citizens with spinal cord injuries or a spinal cord related disorder, although Wisconsin residents are given priority. The organization also offers scholarships to those affected by paralysis or who are the child of a person affected by paralysis. Grant requests are reviewed in January, March, June and September, while scholarship requests will have specific dates on the website’s application FAQ page.

Grant funds can be used for things like van modifications, home or bathroom upgrades, mobility equipment like wheelchairs, ramps, stair lifts, and more. BRPF can offer partial payments for support if the rest of the funding is already obtained. Funds are dispersed directly to the vendor or provider.

Scholarship funds are up to $4000 yearly for students who are in their final semester of high school or are currently in college pursuing a four-year degree, associate degree, or post-graduate program certification.

ELIGIBILITY: For grants, applicants must be US citizens. They must provide medical documentation confirming a spinal cord injury or spinal-cord related disability. While there are no specific guidelines listed, applicants must demonstrate financial need and may be required to provide follow-up documentation proving financial need. Applicants must provide estimates that are specifically from vendors, not general from a website. A picture of the completed project is also helpful!

For scholarships, applicants must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. A 200-word typed essay describing why the applicant deserves the funding is also require, along with a list of 5- and 10-year goals and work experience. There are no income restrictions.

HOW TO APPLY: For charitable grants, use the application link on the BRPF website to submit a grant application.

For scholarships, use the Scholarship FAQ link on the website to determine when the next round of funding is open.

Lori’s Voice

Lori’s Voice is a nonprofit organization that provides support to families who need adaptive equipment, travel assistance, specific types of therapy, and other miscellaneous items not fully covered by other funds. Families must have a child under the age of 21 with a neuromuscular or degenerative disease that causes mobility issues. While anyone in the US can receive support, only Michigan residents can vehicle assistance. Lori’s Voice is intended to provide part of the funding for items, with the family raising or providing much of the funding (including through insurance coverage or other NPO or organization support).

ELIGIBILITY: To qualify, the child must be under 21 years of age. The child must have mobility issues that are part of a diagnoses neuromuscular or degenerative disease. There are no specific income requirements, but families should have financial need and be prepared to provide proof of need. Be prepared to provide specifics about the support needed, including what need it will meet, the approximate cost, and contact information for the provider or vendor. If you have insurance, provide proof of insurance approval or denial.

HOW TO APPLY: Gather all necessary documents and use the form at this link on the Lori’s Voice website to apply!

Grants for Service Dogs

There are many organizations that provide financial help for special needs children who need service dogs! For more resources that provide help with service dogs, check out our guide on how to get a free service dog.

Service Dog Project

The Service Dog Project is a Massachusetts-based organization that provides Great Danes bred specifically to be service dogs for people with Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other similar disabilities that affect mobility. Veterans can also receive service dogs through SDP. Per the website, “NOT trained to assist with hearing or visual impairment, epilepsy, seizures, diabetes, psychiatric disorders or autism.”

ELIGIBILITY: To qualify for an SDP dog, applicants must:

  • Be older than 12 and younger than 65
  • Be able to provide the highest level of care for the dog
  • Live in a space with a fenced in yard (although apartments can be considered)
  • Have no more than one pet in the home when applying
  • Living within close enough distance to SDP so dogs can receive recurring training
  • Use the dog in public at least three hours a day
  • Volunteer at SDP when possible

HOW TO APPLY: Gather all necessary documentation of presenting diagnosis from a medical professional. Complete the pre-screening process with the online inquiry form on the SDP website. Applicants typically hear back within a few weeks. From here, SDP will begin the matching process if there is an available dog that could be a good fit; or SDP may refer the applicant to another organization.

Canines for Kids

Canines for Kids is a Massachusetts-based organization that provides funding to train service dogs for children under the age of 18 who have a physical or psychological disability, or are on the Autism Spectrum. Canines for Kids does not match children with dogs, but supports the training of dogs. Funds are distributed to the training organization and range from $250-$5000.

From the website, “child must be accepted by an Assistance Dog International member or an International Guide Dog Federation member or other qualified training program prior to applying for scholarship.”

ELIGIBILITY: Children must be under the age of 18 and diagnosed with a physical or psychological disability, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. The child must be able to show proof of acceptance by an Assistance Dog International member or an International Guide Dog Federation member or other qualified training program.

There are also eligibility requirements for the training program to be funded. You can read more here on the CDK website.

HOW TO APPLY: Gather all relevant documentation and use the link on the website to do the online application.

Josh Provides

Josh Provides is a nonprofit organization that provides support to people with epilepsy. There are several programs that offer financial help, with support available to cover transportation to and from services; treatment not covered by insurance or other programs; seizure alert devices; and seizure response dogs. There are no age or income limits listed on the website. Each individual application has similar requirements, and Josh Provides requests that applicants contact the organization at 1-800-706-2740 to receive information about eligibility and available funding.

All of the grant applications require submission of a picture of the applicant; demonstrated financial needs; and the amount and purpose of the requested support. Applicants all need to be able to demonstrate that they are under the care of a licensed neurologist or epileptologist.

ELIGIBILITY: To receive funding, applicants must be diagnosed with epilepsy or another seizure disorder and currently under the care of a licensed neurologist or epileptologist, who will need to sign the application. To receive support with training a service dog, the patient’s physician must deem the service dog to be a medical necessity.

HOW TO APPLY: Gather all relevant documents, including the specific grant application from one of the sections on their website. Please contact the organization at 1-800-706-2740 to receive information about eligibility and available funding. Once you have received confirmation that your application may be considered, contact your doctor for their portion.

You don’t necessarily need to wait to contact your doctor for their portion of the application; it could take some time to get this portion back from a doctor’s office. However, be sure to communicate with Josh Provides so that you do not waste time and energy, only to find that there is no available funding.

Miscellaneous Support for Special Needs Families

Of course, there are other organizations that provide other forms of financial support for special needs children and their families. Check these out!

Sunshine Foundation

The Sunshine Foundation grants dreams for children with severe and profound disabilities, as well as for children with a documented severe trauma-related diagnosis. Families can receive support in ways from family trips and shopping sprees to therapeutic equipment or medical devices. The Sunshine Foundation also has their Dream Village, located in central Florida, which is a handicap-accessible place to stay for families who are visiting central Florida theme parks.

There are income requirements and the website notes that it can take several years for some wishes to be fulfilled.

ELIGIBILITY: Children must be between the ages of 3 and 18 and have a diagnosis of a sever or profound disability or trauma from physical or sexual abuse. A medical authorization form and supporting documents are required. Family income must be under $75,000 and the child must be a citizen of the United States.

HOW TO APPLY: Parent or guardian: gather all relevant documentation (proof of income, proof of diagnosis) and use this link on the Sunshine Foundation website to fill out the pre-screen form. If your child meets the criteria, the Sunshine Foundation will follow up with a link to complete the application!

NetWish

NetWish is an organization funded by an anonymous Philadelphia-area businessman. NetWish provides up to $200 in support via gift cards or pre-paid credit cards, which are sent via mail. There are no specific requirements as far as income or need. Applicant must be a resident of the United States. The website notes that the more specific the request, the better!

ELIGIBILITY: None specified; website asks applicants to provide as much detail as possible when applying.

HOW TO APPLY: Use this link from the NetWish website!

https://netwish.org/

Modest Needs

Modest Needs is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance for families in crisis who do not qualify for conventional programs because their income is too high, but not high enough to manage if a paycheck is missed. They aren’t limited to financial help for special needs children and their families, which means a lot of people can actually be eligible for this.

One of the goals of Modest Needs is to “stop at-risk households from slipping into the cycle of poverty” by providing financial support to families in the US and Canada in times of emergency. Funds can cover many things: appliance repair or purchase; one-time monthly bill payments that the family can’t cover due to a crisis; work uniforms; medical equipment; burial fees; and more.

Funds are raised through crowdsourcing campaigns on the Modest Needs website. Funding isn’t guaranteed, but Modest Needs has a large network and is typically successful in their campaigns. Grant amounts tend to average $750-$1250. Unlike other crowdsourcing websites, there is no fee to the recipient!

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants must be citizens of the US or Canada. At least one member of the household must be employed, and the largest monthly income must be from wages, child support, veteran’s benefits, or retirement income (including Social Security). Applicants must be above the poverty line and have at least one bank account in the household OR have a tax return from the past two years. You will also need to have access to a computer to check the website daily for the duration of your campaign, and you’ll need to have access to a scanner or fax machine. If you need help with paying rent, you’ll need to provide a copy of your lease.

HOW TO APPLY: Gather all relevant documentation (proof of income; tax return or bank statement; lease; proof of cost for requested support) and use the link on the Modest Needs website to apply! They recommend setting aside 30-45 minutes to complete the application.

LIHEAP

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a federally funded program that distributes funds to local governments for administration. LIHEAP provides support for utility bills (water, electric, gas, etc.) and energy-related home repairs that are necessary for the home to remain livable. Each US state or territory has agencies that administer funds to applicants who meet the criteria.

Applicants can use the directory on the LIHEAP website to look up their specific state and locality and find more information, including criteria for eligibility.

ELIGIBILITY: Although individual states and localities may have more specific guidelines, LIHEAP is administered only to families whose income is less than 150% of the federal poverty line or no more than 60% of the state’s median income.

HOW TO APPLY: Use the directory on the LIHEAP website to look up your specific state and locality to determine their requirements. In general, plan to gather the following documents:

  • Proof of income
  • Utility bill you’re seeking help for
  • Proof of any benefits received such as SNAP, TANF, WIC, veteran’s benefits
  • Lease (if renting)

Additionally, you can search here for grants related to your specific needs: https://www.federalgrantswire.com/.

Relief Recap

As you can see, there are many resources and plenty of financial help for special needs children and their families. These tools help parents focus on what matters: providing the highest quality of life with the least amount of stress.