Autism, a pervasive developmental disorder, can be quite costly for parents. Doctors, therapists and even special schools may be necessary, depending on the individual child, and all of these things can be quite expensive. Fortunately there are a number of private and government grants that can be used to pay for everything from alternative therapies to school costs.
IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, while not a grant, makes children with disabilities eligible for a range of free or low-cost services such as medical evaluations, psychological services, speech therapy, physiotherapy, parent counselling and training, assisted technology devices, and other specialised services. While the offering varies by state it is important to know that all children under 21 qualify and that children under 10 years of age do not need a diagnosis, as they will be provided with one as part of this program. Many parents of autistic children who have just been disagnosed are unaware of this law, or know only the basics of how to use it. You can find out about specific grants at govbenefits.gov, a website that features lists of existing grants, searchable according to disability and age.
Many children with disabilities, including autism, benefit from contact with animals. There are numerous programs that provide service dogs, horse riding therapy and other animal-related assistance. Many parents who cannot afford these services on their own or cannot find grants, volunteer their children as "socializers" of puppies and kittens at the local animal shelter. Research has shown that simply petting the animals can have an ameliorative effect on these children. The State of California offers up to £32 a month for service dog care, among other services. You can find out more at dss.cahwnet.gov. Other states have similar programs, so check with your local Autism Society branch, local therapists and schools.
There are many groups that can step in when your local or state government does not step up. For example, the Easter Seals Society runs a program for autistic children, as well as for other disabled populations. This organizatoin also can provide information on services available in your area, advocacy assistance, and Easter Seals volunteers may play with your child or even accompany you to doctors' appointments, to help entertain him. You can contact this group at easterseals.com.
The NeighborHeart Program serves families in Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It provides so-called Quality of Life grants, ranging from £65 to £325, which may be used for anything that improves your child's quality of life. Most autism grants are privately funded but they are relatively easy to find and many have the name "Quality of Life Grant," so they can be used for both purchases and services.