FREE Stuff for Kids with Disabilities (and/or Kids with Special Needs)

free stuff for kids with disabilities
From foundations and grants to books, bikes and benefits - a big list of places that can help out with free stuff for kids with disabilities

"Kids" with disabilities = 25 years and younger. If you are over 25, please click here to read my post on Free Stuff for Adults with Disabilities

Free Stuff for Kids with Disabilities

We all love free stuff, but sometimes when you are raising a kid with a disability or special need, you REALLY love free stuff – or more accurately, you really NEED the free stuff, because disability or special needs can be expensive. Here’s a short list of some great free stuff for kids with disabilities or special needs*, focusing on products, services and money.

Scholarships

Ruby’s Rainbow: Scholarships for people with Intellectual Disabilities to attend higher education.

JLV Counseling’s Clearinghouse of Scholarships for People with Disabilities: Comprehensive list of scholarships available to people with disabilities, categorized by disability.

Fun Stuff

Challenge Air: A child with a disability can learn to fly a plane!

Dream Factory: dream wishes fulfilled for kids of all different disabilities.

Make-A-Wish: Kids have to have a ‘life-threatening condition’ and be between the ages of 2.5 and 18 to get their wish of a lifetime.

Sunshine Foundation: dream wishes fulfilled for kids of all different disabilities.

Children’s Wish Foundation International: more dream wishes fulfilled.

Financial Planning

Financial planning is incredibly important for families in which disability is present. Neglecting this might mean that your child will be left destitute or institutionalized upon your passing. Here are some free resources to help you plan:

ABLE Account: understand the ABLE accounts.

The Red Book: on the heels of understanding ABLE accounts is “The Red Book” – Social Security’s annual book on benefits. The link provided is to a pdf of the book.

Disability Benefits 101: tools and information on employment, health coverage, and benefits. Not all states are set up with the calculator, but World Institute on Disability has a lot of other information on financial planning and benefits – check out their books and resources here.

Free Passes

National Park Service: free lifetime pass to US national parks and more. There are some requirements and stipulations, so read through the application – which is linked here.

State Park Service: state parks have a disability discount – look up your state for more information and for the application. California’s is linked here.

Disney Disability Pass: this is changing as a result of the abuse, but it still helps families with a child with a disability or adults with disabilities. Check it out.

Bikes & iPads (and more)

Bikes: here’s a comprehensive list from the Friendship Circle’s blog of places to turn to for an adaptive bike. (note: scroll down – the formatting of their post is a little different and it kind of threw me off for a minute).

Bikes, Wheelchairs, Adaptive Equipment and more: Variety’s “Freedom Program” funds a lot. Check out the program here. Apply for help here.

Bikes, iPads & More: Gifts from the Heart for Down’s funds pretty much anything for kids with Down syndrome. Their application list is full as of 12/16; bookmark it if it’s relevant to you, and check back later.

iPads: Danny’s Wish awards iPads to kids with Autism. Applications are open from Sept-December 31st every year; iPads given out in April.

iPad Loans: Center for Accessible Technology has an iPad loan program, whereby you can try out an iPad and apps to see if it’s a fit. They will also work with you to see what will be helpful for your child.

Foundations & Grants

Foundations and Grants are a fabulous way to go. Finding the right fit can take a little research, but it’s well worth it. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Check in with the local disability-specific organization that your child matches (- for us it was the Down syndrome Connection of the Bay Area). Ask for information they might have about grants, foundations, etc that will help cover costs of bikes, iPads, etc. Apply that way.
  2. Google locally, “location-name + disability + grants foundations” – keep playing with the key words.
  3. Look into the Foundation Center: they have information on foundations all across the world (not just the United States).

Some Foundations to Put on Your Radar:

Danielle’s Foundation: helping kids with Cerebral Palsy and brain injury gain access to therapies, equipment and other benefits.

Lindsay Foundation: comprehensive help for kids across the disability spectrum (from therapy to equipment and much, much more)

First Hand Foundation: worldwide. Help in all areas of the disability spectrum, providing assistance to getting a hearing aid or wheelchair to transport to and from therapy.

ACT Today! : Helping families who have a child on the Autism Spectrum with care and treatment.

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism: “helping families live life to the fullest”

Transport

Angel Flight: free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, medically related need.

First Hand Foundation: providing gas money, parking and transportation related to a child’s care, vehicle medications, equipment and more.

Books

National Library Service (for the Blind & Physically Handicapped): free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

Bookshare: An accessible online library for people with print disabilities.

Learning Ally: Audio books and learning tools.

 

*Note

“Special Needs” do not equal disability. These words should not be used interchangeably. Some people may have a disability but no special needs; others may have special needs but no disability. “Special Needs” is an education term; “disability” is a physical/cultural term.

PS

Thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped me out with this list – especially the incomparable Amy Allison!

Please add links to places that you’ve found to be helpful or know about in the comments so that everyone can benefit. Thanks!

Free Stuff for kids with disabilities and or special needs
Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
So lovely. Thank you for this, @OjiDannelley, and your message needs to be heard. #poweronhttps://t.co/UD0fSaTH7l - 1 day ago
Meriah
Liked it? Take a second to support Meriah on Patreon!

52 Comments

  • Is this limited to kids? A lot of adults get left behind. It’s like the disability ends at 18 which is so not true. Thanks,

        • No, I don’t. There have been so many private emails to me about that exactly – if there are bloggers reading this who live in Canada, or organizations, I highly recommend that you develop a list like this that is specific to Canada – people want it!

  • This is a great list! Thank you! I would also add the United Healthcare Children’s Foundation. They award medical grants up to $5000 a year to cover copays for families who already have commercial health insurance. (Though, your insurance does not need to be through United Healthcare)

  • My son who is 16 years old was not approved for a dream through the Dream Factory. He is autistic, ADHD, anxiety disorder, hypothyroidism fatty liver disease, low intellectual functioning,type 2 diabetes,and has a mental health diagnosis. He wants to go to Disney World but he did not fit the criteria. Is there any other programs who could grant his dream? I also tried the Sunshine program as well. I feel kids with such disabilities are overlooked,they too deserve the opportunity to have fun and relaxing. Please if you know of any organization who can give my son his dream I would appreciate any help I can get.

    • My daughter got wish granted through Kids Wish Network out of Florida. We are in Missouri. She had cerebral palsy and as long as Dr would sign off on it there were no questions needed. We applied in May left in August. They are online. Hope this helps.

  • Thank you, Meriah! This is a very good looking list. I’ll be looking into those links that may benefit my child/our family. I really appreciate it!

    • Glad it’s helpful. If you find something useful or hear of something not on the list, please come back and comment again with the link! Thank you again

    • If I were you, I’d make a short list of what she needs exactly (brand, model, app, etc) and why. Then go through the organizations to find one that serves people with your daughter’s disability.
      Wishing you all the best, meriah

    • Hi, Diane:
      Did you try your state’s vocational rehabilitation department? If your daughter is still in school, you could go to your state department of health and human services that serves disabled children.
      Lou

    • Have you tried your state’s assistive technology program? I think all state’s have one. I know Missouri does. You can try electronic devices and check them out through a school, non-profit etc. This gives you ideas and ways to see how she does with different technology.

  • Do you know of any foundations or programs that can help disabled child’s family relocate out of state to provide a better quality of life. Very difficult raising a disabled child in a state with such limited resources, difficulties holding a job,cold weather and flux in seasons further compromise health.

    • that’s a really good question, Nichole (and by “good”, I mean “hard”). I hope others read your question and help answer it, but I wonder if the medical piece might cover that? That is, medical that is not covered by insurance. Your point is really valid, so it makes sense to me that you’d be able to make a compelling case for funding.

  • You might try local service organizations like the Lions Club, the Kiwanis, the Shriner’s, they may offer some assistance with a variety of items or financial assistance and there may be some others out there. Good Luck!

  • Help for a friend. My friend is working to get her son a Companion dog through CCI. while the dog is free, the cost associated to get the dog is about $5,000 (multiple travel from AL to Orlando, hotel, rental car, food, loss of wages during training sessions for the entire family).

    Do you know of any grants or programs offered by businesses (e.g., airlines, hotels) that might help reduce some of these costs?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey!
      My hearing dog is through CCI. The entire family doesn’t go to the training; just the person who needs it and their caregiver (if they have one). In my case, I went with my kids because my husband was working, and my mom, who watched the kids while I was in training.

      CCI itself offers scholarships to cover some costs, and helps organize things like car pools or arrangements to/from the airport. Your friend can check in with CCI to see who else is arriving, and figure out how to get to the training center together. Since the training centers are complete (- with kitchens, etc), you really don’t need to rent a car. You also don’t need to stay in a hotel, since the training centers offer free (and fully accessible) accommodation.

      If the Orlando center doesn’t offer free accommodation, your friend should request to be trained in CA – the CA center is set.

      For the cost of airfare though, I think there were a couple of organizations that offered transport assistance for things that were not covered by insurance. This should fall into that category and your friend should definitely apply. Also, like I said, ask CCI directly – they know of funding sources.

      Hope this helps – best of luck to your friend

  • Hello everyone! My daughter, Madelyn 12yrs, has Klippel-Feil Syndrome and severe Scoliosis. Her dr (her boyfriend as she calls him) has decided that she needsaid to has Posterior Spine Fusion Surgery ASAP Feb20th. I work for the Houston County Board of Education in Ga. I have 4 days of paid leave time & so that means that I will have atleast 2months or more of no paycheck. I don’t receive food stamps just Medicaid for my 3 daughters. My husband just got a job so his paychecks stink. I pay all of the bills…. Needless to say I’m scared to death. I know that the Lord has his hands wrapped around both Madelyn & her Dr/boyfriend. Does anyone know what I need to do or where to go to try & get help? Please I’m a desperate mother & very nervous! I will volunteer before her surgery & when she is well enough to let me leave her I’ll volunteer more.

    • Chelsea my son was diagnosed at age 7 with severe kfs. Kidney anomaly. Scoliosis and lordosis. He also has a cyst in his spinal cord that needs to be shunted Every couple years. We have recieves all of his services through the shrines hospital in Minnesota. His neurosurgeon does all of his surgeries at the children’s hospital of St. Paul. He has had several spinal surgeries and is doing fantastic today at the age of 20. He has restrictions on activities and will for life but he has far surpassed all medical predictions. I will keep your family in my thoughts.

  • If you’re in Northern California, there is a non-profit called AbleCloset (www.AbleCloset.com) that loans out free pediatric equipment: wheelchairs, walkers, standers, bikes, beach wheelchairs, bath equipment and more.

  • Thank you for the information. It is very frustrating to be denied programs and services for my son and not know if there is another option. I will look into some listed here. Thank you for the post and positivity.

    • Of course. Also, it’s super frustrating that many of these programs and services use “denial” as a part of the process, expecting parents and consumers to then appeal and fight for the programs and services – especially the ones that are not completely privately-funded.
      You might want to tap into DREDF (dredf.org) to find out more about your rights.
      xoxo love to you.

  • I have a son who is Autistic and currently our private insurance will NOT cover any medical treatment related to Autism? Any suggestions?

  • Any grants that you know of that help with fencing? We just got my son a Service Dog and we need help with getting a fence. After fundraising for the dog all our generous people have given already for that.

    • Oh bummer. You didn’t have to pay for the service dog… I wish more people knew that the best quality service dog programs are free, completely free (for anyone else reading this, check out where I got my service dog, http://www.cci.org)

      I think if I were you, I’d look into your local Rotary/Lion’s/Kiwani club for support, but also directly approaching fencing companies to ask for support – you might be able to make it a win/win – where they help you and you give them some great publicity?

  • We have 2 disabled kids in wheelchairs and really need a handicapped accessible van. Do you know of anyone that helps with this?

    • yes, I believe there is. You might want to look under ‘medical’ or something along those lines – I think there was one that related to ramps.
      Good luck.

I'm opinionated, friendly & chatty... I hope you are, too