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

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"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!

Be a FLUFFMEISTER!!!

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a cat-loving Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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95 thoughts on “FREE Stuff for Kids with Disabilities (and/or Kids with Special Needs)”

  1. 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,

    Reply
    • Not everything here is just for kids, but don’t worry! Next list-post coming up will be on free stuff for us adults with disabilities! If you have any suggestions to add, please let me know

      Reply
      • Meriah, I am looking for help finding a grant to purchase a school bus for our Access 1 &2 classes at our high school. They try to go out about three times per week for Community Based Instruction and at least one day a month for extended field trips. Our problem is, the bus we have is on it’s last legs and we can’t get funding for another. If you have any ideas on where to start looking please let me know. We are a small South Georgia school system and the money just isn’t there for us. As a fellow teacher I can’t begin to state just how much this program has Opened up our children to their community and the world beyond. Thanks for any advice you can give. Lee Ayres.

        Reply
      • Hi I am a mama of 2 special needs boy’s with ibe income I stand alone in my community and schools I just want some free anything to give to my boy’s buying toys is hard please help

        Reply
      • HI,
        GOOD AFTERNOON HAVING A HARD TIME FINDING CLASSES ADAPTIVE BIKE CLASSES FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM IN NYC.. DO YOU KNOW OF ANY SITES OR SCHOOL THAT CAN OFFER THESE CLASSES?

        Reply
    • I live in Houston Texas and I have a daughter who is 7 that deals with autism and ADHD and would like to find more information out on any free stuff that can help my child

      Reply
    • Really need to find some kind of program to help my son is 34 but was injured at 16 in a swimming accident and p he is a c5quad we almost lost him in 15 in 2012 we were gifted with a beautiful 2 month baby girl going through heroin with drawls the state has put nothing into helping but I did not need there help then lost my job last November an I cant seem to get any assistance my savings is gone we need a break a vacation which we have never had never actually thought about my son adores his niece an to be able to take them somewhere they could enjoy together would be a dream come true for me.

      Reply
  2. 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)

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  4. 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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  6. 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!

    Reply
  7. 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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  11. I am Deaf person and I am problem money miss this my job urgent vsa flight from USA to India fees. Please you help money support $5000 help me.

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

    Reply
  13. 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.

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
    • Good question! I was wondering the same thing. I have a 5 year old that has Down syndrome and is deaf. We live on a busy highway with railroad tracks across it. I wish we could get funding for a fence and lots of other things!

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  15. Pingback: Tips for Traveling With a Child with Down Syndrome
  16. Is there any groups or foundations that help pay for fencing for autistic wanderers? I had a teacher mention something she had heard but i havent been able to find any info.

    Reply
  17. Hello, Meriah how are you.
    I was you helping lots disability
    I hope you also help me.
    This is my first time here.
    I have a son with autistics. His 14y old.
    I need free fun stuff for him.
    Challenger Air for him.
    Dream factory for him
    Needs free passes for him
    Disney disability pass for him
    First hand foundation
    Free bikes & ipeds transport
    What help can I get for him…he needs electronics please help him.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  18. I have a child with a genetic bone disease. He has had 25 broken bones in his body. His 15 yrs old and needs help with transfers in and out of the bath tub. Is there any resources available to help with a handicap proof bath room? He has a wheel chair due to breaks in legs making him wheel chair bound for long periods of time. House is just not handicap friendly. I just got his schooling straightened out because he can not attend regular school. We have to protect his environment due to numerous fractures, a lot to the spine. Have no idea where to start.

    Reply
  19. I have a 6 yr old with autism I live in nebraska my son has been legally declared disabled by disability but when we tried to get disability mainly for medical because he also has ATNR and Spinal gallant so he really needs physical therapy we were denied because supposedly we make too much yet here we live in a motel because we lost our home last year after I lost both my parents 2 months apart we barely get by week by week when holidays come we cant even afford the best my boys deserve but my main problem at this point is school is just around the corner and neither of my boys have anything for school I cant get them school clothes or shoes I cant afford their school supplies or back packs ot basically comes down to do we eat or get school necessities it’s sad I feel like a horrible mommy who dont deserve the precious gifts God has given her I have searched and searched and I cant find any resources that can help with this dilemma I would be happy with gift cards to Walmart or goodwill just as long as I can get my babies what they need I’m emotionally drained wanting to give up but I have 2 little boys that depend on me and I’m lost any suggestions or anyone know of any help

    Sincerely
    Mommy that cant give up

    Reply
  20. I’m a disabled adult age 35 how do I go about getting the free ipad & books

    Jordan is 7 and is a disabled special needs child same question for him

    Reply
  21. I am the Mother of a 16 year old disabled Daughter with Cerebral Palsy and she had a stroke when she was 4 months old and she has lost the use of her right side and is in a wheelchair just wondering how I go about getting help for and the things she needs cause I am not able to work cause I am at home with her all the time. Thanks Ms. Marsh

    Reply
  22. Hello I am desperate to help my brother and his family. My nieces are identical twins and one is disabled and has special needs. While they were living in Texas she qualified for Medicaid and received free diapers. (She will never be potty trained).
    My brother and his family recently moved to San Diego, CA (to be closer to family that could offer a hand) and because of their combined income do not qualify for Medicaid. They are swimming in the debt from the medical bills, and the free diapers for their incontinent 4 year old were a huge blessing. Does anyone know of free diapers in CA for disabled children? Or of a way my niece would qualify for Medicaid?
    Thanks and have a fabulous day.
    Heather

    Reply
    • she should qualify for medicaid. check in with a local CIL (google “center for independent living + your area name) to find the one closest to you. Also, check out Through the Looking Glass and Regional Center of California for resources and support.

      xo meriah

      Reply
  23. Hi…In keishla E Fonseca…I have 3 kids with a Intelectual disability…I be train to get a wish for them…But I don not where I need to do or what I can do…

    Reply
  24. Hello, thanks for the info. Would you happen to know of a place in NYC that I can get equipment at lower price or by a donation? I want to help someone out of the country getting a chair but I can’t afford buying it new. Thanks!

    Reply
  25. My son has mobility concerns. He isn’t unable to walk and can be a fall concern but he loves to swing. We use a large toddler swing at the park but it is not meant for children over 5. He is a small 11yr old but is barely able to fit. Are there programs that could help him qualify for a swing for here at home? They are rather expensive. I know he would enjoy it.

    Reply
    • yeah, I’m pretty sure that some of these do – also, consider approaching your local Rotary/Lions/Kiwani club to ask for their sponsorship – I’ve heard that this can be a great option for something like a home swing set

      Reply
  26. You have so many to choose from.
    My son bubba has multiple disability. He has charge syndrome. Austic. P17 Smith magenis. OCD. He doesn’t sleep. He puts holes in walls. On a good day he’s a beautiful boy, but when he doesn’t feel well or there is a full moon. He becomes the child from hell.
    I can use as much help that you can give.
    His 18th birthday is coming up. And I want to do something special.
    Thank you
    His mom melody kinney

    Reply
  27. Is there any programs that assist with the purchase of wheelchair vehicles? I have a 23 yr old with Cerebral Palsy and we are in desperate need of vehicle to transport him. Right now I have a 2005 mini van and I have to lift him out of the van and put him inside and then lift the chair inside of the vehicle. The chair had to have modifications for him so it can’t fold down and is very heavy. If anyone knows of any help out there I would really appreciate it. Thank you…

    Reply
    • I know that DOR (DVR in some states) has helped with vehicle purchases, as long as it relates to finding and keeping employment. PASS plans also help with this – you can email me if you want to talk about this specific option more – meriahnichols@gmail

      Reply
  28. My granddaughter Emma has SMA the number one genetic killer in the world are in desperate need of a new van to transport her how can I get help for her and my daughter and son-in-law

    Reply
  29. Thank you for your help in finding the places you where able to find I’m sure that I might be able to find out what my 14 year old special needs son will be available for him we lost my wife and my in-law with in 6 my of each other last year my son has AMC arthrograposis muscular congenital which is basically frozen joints and fibroids muscles I just want to say thank you

    Reply
  30. I have two special needs kids both got disability both got adhd and artist for my 3 year old and autism he is 7

    Reply
  31. Hi my daughter is 18 now and she was born with Down syndrome. Every since she knew about queen Elsa she has been crazy over her. Just recently an opportunity to go to Florida and stay in a resort for a week has kinda cane about.
    But the thing is we need to get a rent a car by Friday July the 12 2019. I know that it’s a long shot. But I was praying that there is a way to maybe get help on getting the rent a car . I know that it’s probably to late . But it never hurt to ask if ANYONE could possibly give me advice on how or if there is such help. I know that this would make her dreams come true. She really deserves it. Please please help

    Reply
  32. Hello,
    My son has had 4 surgeries for a cyst on his spinal cord C3-C4. Because of this. he has weakness in his extremities.. He wears braces on his legs for support. both during the day and at night. He has scoliosis because his right side has always been weaker, so now he walks with a severe limp. He can only walk short distances. He uses a wheelchair.
    It is EXTREMELY difficult to get any kind of help from anyone because what he has does not have a “name”. Make a Wish said it wasn’t life threatening. even though he almost died before his first surgery. (He was paralyzed from the neck down and almost lost control of his respiratory and cardio organs)
    We had to buy his walker ourselves. we had to pay for his crutches. many of these medical supply companies have equipment for small children and then small adults. Nothing for adolescents.. We can’t find Pull-ups anywhere. They want to give us adult small. he is skinny. Just growing out of the L-XL overnights. Nobody gives a damn. It drives me nuts. I have no idea what to do. I spent most of my adult life in the Army so I didn’t have to deal with insurance. Now it is a little confusing and frustrating. They also don’t understand because his disability doesn’t have a name.
    Do you have any advice? or any websites I can go to?
    I would appreciate it.
    Thank you,
    Dawn Hoffman

    Reply
  33. Hi Meriah,
    Any info about how I might get sponsor for musical training for a seven year old boy who is talented and highly interested in percussions and the piano? Everyone at my local church and at his elementary school keeps telling me I have to get him in training soon because they are just amazed at his skills. I was always aware of his giant sized love for the instruments but don’t know where to turn for help. Also I hadn’t worked since he was born due to his many health issues that kept me busy with multiple doctors visits per week and the rest is a long story I can always share later. Please your wonderful help or advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • I would approach the local Rotary Club and ask for help first. They often sponsor gifted scholars.
      I’d turn to the other business clubs to ask if Rotary said no (but I can’t imagine they would; this seems like a real fit with Rotary).
      Good luck and all the best!

      Reply

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