When Times Are Tough, Autism Parents Get Creative:
We're living in tough times — and tough times are especially hard on families living with autism. Many parents are shocked by the price tags associated with autism therapy ($70,000, $100,000 per year) and wonder whether it's possible to provide low-cost, high-quality autism therapy. The answer, of course, is yes, and here are just a few recommendations to get you started:
Investigate Your Insurance Options:
Start by working with your insurance company to find out how you may get treatments covered. It may be easier than you imagined, though it sometimes takes some extra time and energy to negotiate the system.
Trade Autism-Related Products Online:
Visit AutismFreeZone.com, a new website that allows parents to exchange autism-related products, such books, DVDs, tools and toys, for the cost of shipping.
Barter with Your Therapist:
Consider bartering with a therapist instead of simply paying out of pocket. If you can offer a useful service or product, such as plumbing, landscaping or even babysitting, your therapist may well consider making a deal. Even if you can't work out a 1:1 exchange of services, you may be able to cut costs considerably.
Get Trained as an Autism Therapist:
You can be trained as an ABA therapist in a matter of months and save tens of thousands per year on your child's therapy. Or you can select a therapy (i.e., Floortime or RDI) that can be implemented by parents with little or no formal training. While these and other parent-centered programs do offer high-priced training programs, it's possible to access almost all the training content through books, web seminars and DVDs.
Hire a Student to Provide Some of Your Child's Therapy:
Hire a student to work with your child. If you hire a college student who's studying to be a therapist, you're golden. Even the right high schooler can do a terrific job helping your child build social, play and collaborative skills. Students may not be highly trained, but they're often loaded with energy and creative ideas — and they certainly charge less than the typical trained therapist.
Shop Around for Co-ops and Low-Cost Products:
Choose biomedical therapies that can be implemented at relatively low cost and with low risk. Then shop around for deals. Join co-ops and shop online to avoid the high price of gluten-free products and supplements often charged in specialty shops.
Make Your Own Therapeutic Products:
Make your own therapeutic products. There's really no need to buy a $100 set of picture cards when you can make your own for free using downloadable clipart and your own digital photos. If you can sew, you can make your own weighted blankets and vests; if you can use a drill and screwdriver, you can make your own indoor swings.
Avoid 'Special Needs' Labels:
Avoid labels that say "sensory toy" or "special needs." There's certainly no need to spend big bucks for specialized "sensory" toys when the same toy with a different label is available at an eighth of the price at a discount store.
Remember You Do Have Choices:
No one can tell you which therapy will work best for your child. As a result, you, the parent, have the power to make smart decisions on behalf of your child, family and financial security. No autism therapy is worth financial catastrophe.