News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: Are there financial programs that can help us access services for our child with ASD?

JCCHD | Thu, July 12, 2012 | [Autism Treatment][Q and A ]

Lifesaver ring

“How will I afford appropriate treatment for my child?” is a common question and source of stress for most parents of children with special needs.  Parents typically start with their insurance company; while medical and nutrition care is sometimes a covered expense, the cost of some medications, supplements, special foods, therapies (behavioral, speech, OT, and more), out-of-network providers, and assistance devices may be excluded, creating a significant list of out-of-pocket expenses.

Beyond insurance, parents can seek help from their school district or early intervention program, but often a child on the spectrum needs additional or more specialized services than these programs provide. Parents may find that their treatment center will work with them regarding financial constraints, especially if parents propose a reasonable plan they can commit to and stick with.

If the coverage provided by the insurance company and the school system falls short of the needs of the child, parents can then reach out to family and friends for assistance.  Free online fundraising pages, such as or, allow families to post a financial goal for medical needs, treatments, or therapies so extended family and friends can easily send financial support. 

Other options families can explore are grants and scholarships.  A quick Google search will bring up options for grants in many areas:  medical treatment, Applied Behavior Analysis, assistive communication devices, learning equipment, supplements, camps, specialized child care, marriage and family counseling, travel for medical appointments, and speech and occupational services. 

Beyond a Google search, parents can reach out to support groups and list serves to see where other parents have applied for grants.  Parents can also call their treatment centers and talk with the support staff about organizations that have given funding on behalf of other patients.  Don’t assume you won’t be considered based on your income or assets; often the income requirements on these applications are quite high, given how expensive some therapies can be.

It is important to note that applying for a grant takes work.  The applications can be detailed and sometimes the applicant must provide supporting documentation. The added demands of digging out old tax returns and filling out forms may be daunting, but if planned right, it might only have to be done once.  Create a bundle of documents:  past tax returns, pay stubs, lists of monthly expenses, your child’s history, etc.  Many grants ask for the same information, so once this information is gathered, it will be easier to apply for multiple grants.  It might also help to create a calendar of important application dates so that submission deadlines aren’t missed.  Many grants are offered several times a year.  It’s a good idea to submit an application as soon as the organization starts accepting submissions, as grants can close out early if funds are depleted ahead of schedule.

We have been impressed by some of the things we have seen families do.  One asked the local football team to hold a car wash to cover camp tuition, another held a bake sale at their church to pay for a nutrition evaluation, and a third made and sold crafts to pay for medications. We have seen families meet goals that at first seemed impossible through creativity and tenacity.

The Johnson Center has a Family Care team that is devoted to supporting our families, and we will provide the necessary information, documents, and assistance to anyone applying for grants to ensure families have the best chance at getting the help they need.