Financial Help for Families Facing Autism


MainStreet is on a mission to help you find organizations that can improve your daily life while also helping your budget. We profile charities that help worthy causes while at the same time saving you money and/or advocating on your behalf.

This week, we look at organizations that help autistic children and their families.

Understanding Autism
Autism is a bio-neurological developmental condition. Its symptoms, which include delays in verbal communication and poor social interaction, generally appear before the age of 3. Autism diagnoses have become increasingly common. About one in every 150 eight-year-olds have an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fortunately, there are a number of organization that help children and their families deal with autism. All the organizations below are active in advocacy efforts, lobbying lawmakers to increase funding for services and programs to help families affected by autism and to help fund autism-related research and studies. But each organization also runs specific programs to help children and families on a more individual and immediate basis. Here is information on a few of the largest autism organizations, focusing on how they can help your family’s bottom line.

The National Autism Association: This organization’s Helping Hand program provides grants of up to $1,500 for families who need help paying for medicine or therapy for their autistic child. Also, since caring for an autistic child can take a toll on parents and put a huge strain on their marriage, the NAA provides financial assistance so parents of autistic kids can get marriage counseling and support from therapists.

Children with autism are prone to wandering, and then often lack the ability to realize they’re lost or to communicate with people around them for help. NAA’s Project Lifesaver is a nationwide program designed to help locate and rescue missing persons, namely those with cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities. Children enrolled in the program are outfitted with a special bracelet that emits a tracking signal, which helps locate them in case of an emergency.

Autism Society of America: ASA provides a comprehensive information and referral service via their 1-800-3-Autism toll free number, and a large online referral database, AutismSource. ASA’s 190 chapters nationwide sponsor local programs such as Safe and Sound, which provides information and training to first responders on how to best handle emergency situations involving people with autism. ASA also sponsors camps, respite care and social skills events for people with autism and their families.

Autism Speaks: This organization offers free legal aid to certain families in the process of appealing their Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) hearings. Autism Speaks also funds Community Grants to help support organizations that provide services or programs for people with autism. Although they don’t provide grants directly to individuals, they do encourage people who need help to contact local organizations and urge them to apply for a grant from Autism Speaks.

ACT Today: This group sponsors a program in which approved applicants can receive grants of $100 to $5,000 to pay for expenses related to the care or treatment of someone with autism.

NeighborHeart: This relatively small organization provides $500 grants to low-income families with an individual who has a developmental delay or disability, including autism.

AutismCares: They provide up to $1,500 in support to cover costs associated with critical living expenses such as housing, utilities, car repair, day care, funeral expenses and other essential items on a case-by-case basis. Families must have experienced a serious event such as a fire, natural disaster, foreclosure or job loss.

Talk About Curing Autism: This group sponsors a family scholarship program which provides financial help for doctor’s appointments, lab work and other services. The organization’s web site also has a comprehensive section entitled “Who Pays for What?” which includes a detailed chart on the numerous autism-related expenses, identifying which ones are covered by insurance, medical assistance or other sources.

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