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5 Ways to Get a Free iPad for Your Special Needs Child!

There's a reason why everyone's talking about iPads... they really can be used as assistive devices for people with disabilities. From GPS apps that help with Orientation & Mobility to high-tech communication apps that take the place of much more expensive equipment, the iPad is becoming the go-to device for children with special needs.

Plus the iPad's accessibility features are remarkable! Yes, iPads really are accessible to users who are deaf or visually impaired (Check out this article for more about iPad accessibility).

But even if the iPad is much less expensive then some other traditional assistive devices, that doesn't mean they are necessarily affordable! If you're trying to get an iPad for your child, but need help raising money for one, here are five tips that are sure to help....
 

1. Talk to Your Insurance Company

Begin by contacting your insurance company. Find out what you are allowed under Durable Medical Equipment and talk to a case manager about having an iPad covered through your DME (be sure to ask for a case manager to be assigned to you because they have more deciding power than customer service).

If you are going the insurance route you're going to want to have a clear reason why you want the iPad. You can't just say, "I hear they're great for special needs kids!" Do your research and know which apps in particular you want to use and which needs they will be addressing.

For example, I think it makes perfect sense to ask your insurance company to cover an iPad if you plan to use it as a communication device. You can argue that an app like Proloquo2go would be beneficial for your child and would cost much less than stand alone communication equipment (like a Dynavox). Be sure to request that your insurance also covers the communication app, though, since those can also cost hundreds of dollars.

On the other hand, if you just want to play with the iPad and use it to help teach your child about cause-and-effect or how to take turns (which is primarily how we use our iPad with Ivan), I'm sure the insurance company would turn you down. Your child's need for the iPad should be very clear.

Your child's need should also be backed up by professionals. Following the communication example, you would want to have letters of medical necessity written by your child's speech therapist, pediatrician, neurologist, behaviorist or any other applicable professional. Include your child's latest speech assessment and maybe even videos of your child using an iPad in therapy. You can also send along any article you've found related to using an iPad as a communication device (the more academic the article the better it will be received).

If you're denied by insurance, don't give up hope! First of all, you can always ask for reconsideration (we've had to reapply for coverage of an item before and had it accepted on the second request). If all else fails with insurance, keep that denial letter and look at other places where you may find help. Remember that many charities or programs will want to see that you already asked your insurance and were turned down, so be sure to get that denial in writing and hold on to that letter!
 

2. Ask Your School

Ivan playing with his iPad in bedAnother place to go to for an iPad is your child's school district. If you feel that your child would greatly benefit from the use of an iPad in school, then these are the people who should be funding the purchase. Of course, the iPad would then be technically school property so you'll want to make sure that they will allow your child to use the iPad outside of the classroom, but that can usually be arranged (many schools send classroom laptops home with students and this would be a similar arrangement).

In order to get a school to purchase an iPad (particularly one that is intended for one student's use and not the entire classroom), you'll have to follow the same steps you use to get a therapy or accommodation written into your child's IEP.

Begin by asking for an evaluation by a professional familiar with both your child's disability and using an iPad. They may test your child's response to a few different assistive devices and then report back on which ones worked best.

Next, call a meeting to amend your child's IEP and add in the need for the iPad as well as training with the device and the specific apps your child will be using (all to be provided by the school). This is also a good time to discuss when/how your child will be using the iPad (can it come home during the summer and winter breaks, for example) and have that all written in the IEP as well. As I'm sure you know, if it's written down in the IEP it's much easier to enforce!
 

3. Apply for a Grant

There are a many places that specialize in getting funds to children who need them. Applying for an iPad through these organizations is not a guarantee, but it's worth a shot!

  • Little Bear Gives: Little Bear Gives is sponsoring grants to get iPads to children with CVI.
  • Babies with iPads: This site collects donations and purchases iPads for children with significant developmental and/or medical issues. The grants are rewarded as the funds are available.
  • Conover Company: The Conover Mobile Technology Grant is designed to help people with disabilities (adults and children) lead more independent lives. You can fill out their application online.
  • Different Needz Foundation: This organization raises money throughout the year to fund their grant program. Their grants go to families with children with special needs. You can tell them specifically what you want (such as an iPad) and how much it will cost.
  • First Hand Foundation: First Hand will help children with special needs fund assistive technology equipment (among other things) that isn't covered by your insurance. They do have financial guidelines.
  • Gracie's Hope: Gracie's Hope is committed to help improve the lives of children with special needs. They can help provide needed equipment not covered by insurance.
  • Hanna's Helping Hands: This grant is aimed at helping low-income families with children with special needs. They focus on Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas City Metropolitan Area, Michigan, Rhode Island, and New York.
  • iHelp for Special Needs: This program provides iPads and iPad apps to families with children with special needs.
  • The Lindsay Foundation: The Lindsay Foundation is a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to assist families with resources necessary to provide medical treatment, therapies and rehabilitative equipment in order to improve the quality of life for their special needs children.
  • LoudMommy: This site is dedicated to helping children who are non-verbal. They grant iPads to children who could use them to aid communication.
  • Maggie Welby Foundation: This foundation offers grants for children and families that have a financial need for a particular purpose. If awarded, they will purchase the item for you.
  • Small Steps in Speech: The mission of Small Steps in Speech is to help children with speech and/or language disorders take the steps needed to be better communicators. They offer grants to purchase communication devices (including iPads).
  • Special Kids Therapy: Special Kids Therapy's mission is to serve children with various developmental, physical and/or emotional difficulties and their families, principally by raising money for therapies and services not covered by private/public insurance.
  • Zane's Foundation: This site provides grants to families with children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. The geographic location is limited, but the grant can be used for anything related to your child's needs, including an iPad.

The autism community has been especially vocal about the benefits of the iPad and because of this there are many grants aimed specifically at getting iPads for children with autism. If your child is diagnosed with autism, you may want to look into these grants:

  • Autism Care & Treatment: ACT awards quarterly grants between $100 and $5,000 to families with children with autism.
  • Autism Cares: Autism Cares sponsors a technology grant to purchase tech equipment for children with autism.
  • HollyRod Foundation: The HollyRod Foundation will assist families with children with autism in obtaining adaptive equipment (including iPads).
  • iTaalk: iTaalk's tag line is "giving children with autism a voice... one iPad at a time!"
  • Let's Chat Autism: Let's Chat Autism sponsors an "iPad's for Autism" grant.

 

4. Contact Local Charities

Ivan playing with his iPad in bedLocal charities are often very happy to help children in their community. Contacting nearby charities can be difficult (first you have to figure out which organizations are in your area and then figure out how to contact them), but often they are more receptive than the big national organizations.

Most communities have a Lion's Club and since they focus on helping people who are blind, they can be the perfect place to start. We've had wonderful success with our Lion's Club. However, we've also found that when looking for help with big ticket items, the Lion's Club can help, but often can't cover the full cost so we've had to look elsewhere as well. Here's an inspiring story about a family in Pennsylvania who was able to get an iPad funded by their Lion's Club and another local charity working together. That's the way to do it!

Looking for more charities? Check out this list and see if any have affiliates in your area.
 

5. Try Some Fundraising

Another option is to just try to raise the money yourself. Honestly, an iPad isn't that expensive, right? If you figure that you'll need at least $500 for the iPad and maybe another $250 for a protective cover and apps (depending on what you'll be using the iPad for), that's still well under $1000. How many donations would you realistically need to reach your goal?

You could begin simply by asking family members to give birthday and holiday gifts in the form of iTunes and Apple gift cards (remember, the Apple card can buy the iPad and the iTunes card can buy apps, but they don't transfer—in other words, you can't buy an iPad with an iTunes gift card).

You could also get a little fancy and start an account with an online fundraising website and ask friends and family to donate there. This is actually a fun way to raise money because everyone can see your goal and how close you are to achieving it (which can encourage some people to donate just a little more). Many of these sites integrate well with Facebook, Twitter and popular blogging systems, so you can share your fundraiser easier.

Here are two fundraising websites to check out:

If you really want to get into it, you can also contact your local newspaper or radio/television station and see if they want to do a story about your child and your fundraising efforts. You'd be surprised how often they're looking for a nice family story!
 

So don't give up and don't despair! If you really, really, really want that iPad for your child, you can find a way to get one! Good luck!
 

Not on Facebook? Post your comments here:

Posted by mkb on Mar 20, 2013 - 4:23pm

i have been in despirate search for an ipad communication device for my autistic daughter, however we live in England. please please help ...? x

Posted by Anonymous on Jun 07, 2013 - 3:09am

FYI - a few of the links no longer exist.

Posted by
adele isaac
on Jul 11, 2013 - 2:18pm

hi am hoping you will be able to help me get a free I pad 2 for my self and my daughter as we both have special needs and are disabled and also to help my son with his university course. I am unable to work and can't afford to buy one and the I pad 2 will also be able to help us keep in touch with our family as they live to far way for us to be able to visit and it has been very hard for us all as my brprother sadly died a couple of mouths ago and he has four children and I feel that being able to talk to them more as we would be able to email then will help them a lot more to cope with losing their dad

Posted by
Jenna Gavroian
on Jul 24, 2013 - 9:37am

Hi,
My name is Jenna Gavroian and I am a Early Childhood Specialist, who works in the area of Part C services for Special Education. I work for an amazing company named Kings Canyon Unified Kid's or for short KC-KIDS. Has anyone heard in California, of any programs that have funded a whole company with iPads. Many of our special needs student children are low-income and I think our company will greatly benefit from services such as this. I will be looking more into the Grants, thank you for everyone who has shared on this website!

Posted by
Teresa Araujo
on Jul 26, 2013 - 6:36pm

Thank you so much for this information. We were just notified by the Maggie Welby Foundation that they approved our grant request for a Smart Brailler. It's going to be so helpful this year in homeschooling him. I'm still in the beginning stages of learning Braille.

Posted by
ANAND
on Aug 06, 2013 - 12:41pm

My self sishna anand from hki for deaf and deafblind. I would like to say about myself:

I was born deaf and I was diagnose with heart problem and cataract in both eyes. At the age of 3 months my left eye cataract surgery was done. After 3 months another surgery was done of my right eye but after the surgery I lost my right eye sight forever. From the age of 6 months to 3 years I went for physiotherapy. My heart Surgery was done at the age of 2 years. At the age of 4 year 1996 I joined the HKI deaf section. At the age of 5 I had to operated 3 times for GLUCOMA. At the age of 10 years I lost my eye sight forever and I became totally Blind. With deafness. Now Iam very intrested to get a ipad for my future.

Posted by
Heather
on Aug 24, 2013 - 2:51pm

My daughter has 1p36 deletion syndrome and can not talk more than a word or two. She has been having a little trouble with sign language. I'm hoping to find a way to get her an iPad to help her learn to communicate better. She is almost 4 .

Posted by
Marissa granadino
on Nov 11, 2013 - 2:20pm

I have two deaf daughter and I now live in Santa Fe New Mexico because we needed to come here from Silver City New Mexico so they could have a chance to go to the school for the deaf Nmsd, I am living in the family housing program which is very new so we live here rent free but I do not have a job and my income is only my daughter Social Security, but I am still paying for my apartment back home in in Silver City and all my bill, I would love to have an iPad for my daughters they need it desperately for communication and education, my youngest daughter is 5 and she doesn't speak very well at all because of her hearing impairment. I know that both of them would benefit greatly from having an iPAD. I would be thrilled to have a chance for my daughters to own one of these products to help them in every aspect of their life.

Posted by Anonymous on Feb 20, 2014 - 9:18am

I wanna have my own laptops