Sunday, September 28, 2008

Funding Autism Treatment Takes Resourcefulness and Determination

Parents of children who have autism know it is important that they provide their children with early and intensive treatment in order to help them thrive and improve their long term outcomes. Unfortunately, parents whose children have autism also know all-too-well that the cost of intensive autism treatment—which could include specialized assessments and evaluations, instruction, therapies, interventions, diets, equipment, materials and treatment-related travel expenses—could easily overwhelm budgets, deplete savings and place a family on the brink of bankruptcy.

A Los Angeles Times article cited $70,000 per child per year as a typical cost for autism treatment. The cost of a 3-year intensive autism treatment program has been estimated as high as $300,000.

Although the cost of autism treatment can be staggering, through a combination of resourcefulness and determination, parents can find funding to help pay a significant portion of the costs of autism treatment. Here are some strategies for funding autism treatment:

· Pare Down Personal Expenses- Eliminate all unnecessary personal and household expenses. Minimize any expenses that cannot be eliminated. The money you save by eliminating waste and reducing costs can be used to pay for autism treatment.

· Squeeze Every Cent Possible out of Your Health Insurance Plan- Find out which autism treatment costs your health insurance will pay. File timely, thoroughly documented claims for all covered evaluations, treatments, therapies and other expenses.

· Sign-up for a Medical Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)-Allocate the maximum dollar amount your employer will allow that you are certain you will use annually to your medical care FSA. The funds can be used to pay for autism treatment costs directly or to reimburse you for out of pocket treatment costs.

· Apply for SSI- If your child qualifies for SSI, the funds he or she receives could be used to pay a portion of the costs of autism treatment.

· See if You Qualify for Medicaid or Other State-Funded Health Care Programs- Medicaid or other state-funded health care programs could be used to pay for certain autism treatment costs.

· Apply for Financial Assistance from State and Local Human Services Agencies- Some states and municipalities offer direct payments, vouchers and other forms of assistance that could be used to fund autism treatment.

· Apply for Grants- A number of charitable organizations offer grants to help pay the costs of autism treatment.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trusera Autism Community

Trusera, an online health network where members can find and share real-world experiences, has an active autism community. Members can use the Trusera Autism Community to ask and answer questions, share stories, write journal entries, check out resources and connect with others whose lives are affected by autism.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Excellent Resources for Parents Raising Children with Autism

Child-Autism-Parent-Café and its sister site Autism Concepts have excellent resources for families coping with autism. The sites provide a comprehensive collection of lifespan resources for families raising children who have autism. Child-Autism-Parent-Café also provides some information that is specifically for African-Americans who have children with autism.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autism Foundation of Ingham County Grants

The Autism Foundation of Ingham County (Michigan) offers grants to local families affected by autism. The grants can be used to pay for doctor and therapy appointments, therapy evaluations, equipment, conferences and respite care. Click on the link to find out how to apply for a grant or to offer support to the Autism Foundation of Ingham County.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Social Networking Community for Moms of Children Who Have Autism

Moms Fighting Autism is a social networking community for moms of children who have autism. Moms coping with autism can use the site to upload photos, write journals and find friends. Both moms fighting autism and moms fighting intolerance toward people who have autism will find support at Moms Fighting Autism.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Children’s Disabilities Information

Children’s Disabilities Information has an extensive collection of articles and resources designed to empower parents of children with disabilities and special needs. The site has a number of helpful resources for parents of children who have autism, including articles, book reviews, discussion lists and an annotated list of links to autism resources.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fathers Autism Guide

Dictionary for Dads has compiled a Fathers Autism Guide that provides some basic information about autism. Dictionary for Dads provides information and resources to help fathers make informed decisions about raising their children that are based on education, research and practical experience.

Click on the link to learn how you can support the work of Dictionary for Dads Operation Fund.

Use Passive Savings Programs to Fund Autism Treatment

Passive savings programs are programs that allow you to save money with minimal effort. With passive savings programs, you earn cash rebates, rewards or credits for purchasing items you need or want. Shopping rewards, rebate programs, loyalty programs and affinity programs are types of passive savings programs.

Web sites that offer rebates for making purchases can be excellent passive savings programs.
The best thing about passive savings programs is they are an easy way to save money by doing things you normally do anyway—like shopping online, shopping in retail stores, buying groceries, filling prescriptions, eating out, traveling, and more.

Once your funds are available, you can use them to pay for autism interventions such as ABA, speech therapy, occupational therapy, assistive technology or augmentative communication devices. The funds can also be used to pay for a college education as well as other expenses of your choice.

Click on the link to learn how to earn money to fund autism treatment through passive savings programs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fathers Network Offers Support to Dads of Children with Disabilities

The Washington State Fathers Network (FN) is the only regional program in the United States that is devoted solely to supporting fathers of children with developmental disabilities and special health care needs. Although the organization is based in Bellevue, Washington, fathers of children who have special needs worldwide are able to benefit from the Fathers Network through its Web site.

The Fathers Network offers a variety of resources to assist fathers of children who have disabilities and other special needs, including workshops, trainings, news, inspirational stories, newsletters, curricula and an events calendar.

Click here for information on how you can support the work of the Fathers Network.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Develop and Implement an Autism Treatment Plan

Once you have created an Autism Intervention Action Plan for your child, you can use it to develop and implement an Autism Treatment Plan.

Here’s how:

1. Use what you learned about how autism affects your child to determine which therapies, treatments and interventions you feel would currently be most appropriate and beneficial for your child. Write a rationale for each treatment you are considering to help you clearly communicate your reasons for choosing to pursue each treatment option—based, of course, on your child’s strengths, deficits, behaviors, capabilities and needs—to treatment providers, school personnel, service coordinators and funding sources.

2. Discuss your proposed treatment plan with loved ones and individuals who are knowledgeable about autism interventions that you respect and trust. Discuss the pros and cons of each autism treatment option you are considering. Carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each autism intervention you are thinking about implementing.

3. After you have finalized your basic autism treatment plan, prioritize the autism interventions you intend to implement. Place the therapies, treatments and interventions you believe are most essential for your child at this time at the top of your list.

4. From your own research, recommendations from other parents of children who have autism and referrals from physicians, therapists, consultants and specialists you trust, compile a list of potential service providers.

5. Contact the autism treatment providers you feel will best meet your child’s needs. Arrange to meet with the service providers whose qualifications, treatment approaches, fees and locations meet your requirements without your child present. Arrange for the autism treatment providers whom you would most like to have work with your child to actually meet your child. Make final decisions about which autism intervention professionals to work with after you have observed the prospective service providers interacting with your child.

Funding Autism Treatment with Health Insurance

Depending on what type of health insurance plan you have (HMO, PPO, POS, etc.), your health insurance may fully or partially cover some or all of the evaluations, therapies, treatments and interventions your child with autism needs. A little investigation on your part will uncover whether and how helpful your health insurance plan will be as a funding source for autism treatment.

Analyze Your Health Insurance Policy

The first thing you need to do is conduct a bit of (health insurance) policy analysis. Read your health insurance handbook and statement of coverage, as well as any other document you can get your hands on that spells out exactly which services related to your child’s autism treatment your insurance will cover. Write down any questions you have and contact your health plan’s member services hotline to address your concerns.

Find out specifically what coverage and benefit limitations your plan has; how much your out-of-pocket costs (such as co-payments and deductibles) will be; whether your health insurance plan offers specific benefits for autism, the maximum number of therapy visits (speech, OT, PT) your plan allows on both annual and lifetime basis; whether your plan limits coverage for specific diagnosis codes; and which, if any, mental health service your health insurance plan covers.

Be sure to ask what procedures you need to follow in order to file a successful claim for covered services. Find out whether you need a referral, a prescription, a letter of medical necessity, support letters from therapists, school personnel, etc.

Inquire about procedures for filing an appeal if your claim is denied. Obtain the address, fax and phone numbers for your health insurance provider’s appeals department.

Keep Thorough Records

Once you’ve found out what is covered and what you need to do in order to file a successful claim, start a documentation file for keeping copies of all paperwork related to your child’s autism treatment. Keep copies of receipts, prescriptions, invoices, explanation of benefits (EOB) forms, letters of medical necessity and support letters from physicians, therapists, teachers, case managers and social workers.

Good recordkeeping practices will help you immensely in terms of managing your claims, appealing claim denials and preparing to file your income taxes.

Determination and Persistence Will Pay Off

Despite the well-publicized difficulties and frustrations some families have encountered while attempting to fund autism treatment through health insurance policies, it is very much worth your effort to find out which autism treatments your insurance will cover and to proactively seek payment of any eligible covered expenses by your health insurance carrier. Your dogged determination and relentless persistence will help you pay for the autism treatments and interventions your child needs in order to thrive.

For additional information and resources regarding funding autism treatment with health insurance, visit Blessed with Autism and Insurance Help for Autism.

Funding Autism Treatment with a Medical Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

If your employer offers a Medical Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), sign up for them right away! Medical Care Flexible Spending Accounts, also known as Flexible Spending Arrangements, are excellent resources for funding autism treatment.

A Medical Care FSA be used to pay for diagnostic evaluations, co-payments, treatment and therapy fees, therapy equipment, over-the-counter and prescription medications, dietary supplements, medical travel expenses, disabled dependent care expenses, special education and specialized tutoring, among other expenses. For a full list of expenses that can be reimbursed by a Medical Care FSA, consult IRS Publication 502.

Autism treatment expenses that may be eligible (depending on your particular Medical Care FSA) for reimbursement for reimbursement may include ABA, speech therapy, occupational therapy, dietary supplements, diagnostic evaluations, assistive technology equipment, augmentative communication devices, tuition for therapeutic day schools and travel expenses for treatment in out-of-state facilities. Call the Internal Revenue Service (800) 829-1040 and check with your Medical Care FSA plan administrator for more information about which autism treatment expenses are reimbursable through your Medical Care FSA.

In addition to reimbursing you for out-of-pocket expenses for autism treatment, FSAs are tax-advantaged accounts that reduce your tax liability by reducing your taxable income. This may make you eligible for certain refundable tax credits.

This is how Medical Care FSAs work. If your employer allows you to place a maximum of $3,000 in a Medical Care FSA and you elect to take advantage of the full amount of the benefit, you will have the $3,000 deducted from your paycheck in equal installments. For example, if you are paid every other week and receive 26 annual paychecks, approximately $115.38 will be deducted from each of your paychecks. The funds will be deducted from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis so your taxable income will be lowered by $115.38 per paycheck and a total of $3,000 for the year. Having a lower annual taxable income could help you qualify for tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit or the additional child tax credit.

When you incur eligible expenses, you simply complete your particular FSA plan’s reimbursement form and submit it—along with receipts, invoices and any other required documentation— to your plan’s processing department. You may request reimbursement for eligible expenses as soon as you incur them, even if you haven’t yet paid for the service. Reimbursement is usually made promptly via direct deposit or check. Some Medical Care FSA plans provide debit cards that can be used to pay for expenses upfront. For more information, read IRS Publication 969.

Here are some tips for deriving maximum benefit from Medical Care FSAs:

1. Sign up for the maximum Medical Care FSA benefit amount you will actually use. If you do not use your entire benefit amount during your plan year, you will lose the unused portion. Create an itemized estimate of the amount you will spend on eligible medical expenses during the plan year before deciding how much you’d like to place in your Medical Care FSA.

2. Find out what type of documentation you need for each type of claim you will be submitting for reimbursement from your Medical Care FSA. Medical Care FSA plans generally request receipts, explanation of benefits (EOB) statements and itemized statements. To obtain reimbursement for some services, some plans may require prescriptions, letters of medical necessity, confirmations of appointments or other documentation. Be sure to keep copies of all documentation for your records.

3. Request reimbursement promptly after incurring an eligible expense.

4. Use all of the funds in your Medical Care FSA during your plan year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

College Resources for Students with Autism

College Resources for Students with Autism provides information about college preparation, planning, scholarships, resources, supports and special programs for college students who have autism. The site offers tons of information to help students who have autism prepare for a successful college experience.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Funding Autism Treatment

Funding Autism Treatment provides strategies and tips for finding financial assistance to pay for autism treatments, therapies, assessments and equipment. The site includes information about grants, financial assistance programs, government benefits, insurance, tax-advantaged accounts and other resources for funding autism treatment. Many of the funding strategies and resources described could be used to help fund treatment of other disabilities, medical conditions or illnesses.

Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity

Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity provides financial assistance to Ontario residents under age 21 who have either a serious illness or a permanent disability. Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity assists with the costs of respite, developmental therapies, adaptive computer hardware and software, medical treatments that are not covered by government health plans or insurance, recreation that promotes a child’s involvement in the community, and educational programs, materials and instruction. Call (905) 852-1799 to obtain a request for assistance form.

Click here to make a donation to Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity.

Lend A Hand Society Provides Emergency Financial Assistance to People with Disabilities

The Lend A Hand Society provides emergency assistance grants to people with disabilities in the Greater Boston area. Lend A Hand Society works with nonprofit community organizations to provide financial assistance for rent, utilities, medical supplies and equipment, eyeglasses and other necessities. Call (617) 338-5301 or email Lend A Hand Society for information on how to apply for an emergency financial assistance grant.

Donations may be made by sending a check to:

Lend A Hand Society
89 South Street, Suite 203
Boston, MA 02111

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lenox Baker Special Assistance Fund

Easter Seals/UCP North Carolina provides one-time financial assistance to individuals with disabilities and their families who are residents of North Carolina or South Carolina through the Lenox Baker Special Assistance Fund. The fund provides assistance with the costs of equipment, medication and medical treatment. For further information contact Susan O’Neal at (800) 868-3787 ext. 119.

Special Needs Learning and Therapy Software at 50% Discount

EnableMart offers Laureate Learning Systems software at a 50% discount on the retail price for parents of children who have autism and other special needs. Laureate Learning Systems publishes therapy and learning software for children and adults who have autism, language disorders, cognitive delays, developmental disabilities and other special needs. Parents of children who have autism or other special needs should call (888) 640-1999 to receive a discount when ordering Laureate Learning software from EnableMart.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Disaster Assistance for Indiana Residents with Disabilities

The Arc of Indiana is providing disaster assistance to people with disabilities who have been severely affected by floods and tornadoes this year. You may apply for assistance by contacting a local chapter of The Arc of Indiana, a local agency that provides services to individuals with disabilities, an IMPG case manager, an Area Agency on Aging or a district office of the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services.

Contributions can be made to The Arc of Indiana Disaster Relief Fund by mailing a check to:

The Arc of Indiana
Attention: Disaster Relief Fund
107 N. Pennsylvania Street
Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Resources for Families of People with Disabilities Affected by Natural Disasters

Here are some helpful resources for families of people who have autism, other disabilities or special needs prepare for and deal with the aftermath of natural disasters:

Stephen M. Shore has published a document about preparing people with autism and their supporters for natural disasters.

The Red Cross has prepared a booklet about disaster preparedness for people with disabilities. provides a collection of tips and information to prepare people with disabilities, caregivers and first responders to cope with natural disasters and other emergencies.

Family Village has compiled a list of links to hurricane relief resources for people with disabilities.

United Cerebral Palsy lists information, phone numbers and links for disaster relief assistance hotlines and organizations.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Financial Assistance for Families of People with Disabilities Who Have Been Affected by Hurricane Gustav and Other Natural Disasters

Financial assistance from government and private sources is available to families of people who have autism and other disabilities that have been affected by Hurricane Gustav or other natural disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides financial assistance to families that have been affected by natural disasters. FEMA provides assistance with the costs of temporary housing, home repairs, home replacement and home construction for families that have been displaced by a hurricane or other natural disaster. In addition, FEMA provides financial assistance for other necessary expenses and serious needs caused by a disaster. FEMA also provides crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, legal services and information about tax breaks for families that have survived a natural disaster.

Click on the links for information about financial assistance available from FEMA or to apply for disaster-related federal financial assistance. Check out FEMA’s helpful list of resources for people who have been affected by specific disasters.

AutismCares provides up to $1,500 in assistance to families that have survived a natural disaster. Mesa Angeles Foundation provides grants and loans to families that have critical financial needs as a result of a natural disaster or other crisis.