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.
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.
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 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.
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, 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:
- 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.
- Google locally, “location-name + disability + grants foundations” – keep playing with the key words.
- 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”
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.
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.
“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.
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!
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.