One of the biggest challenges families often face is funding all the therapies their children need. This guide provides resources Northeast Ohio families can use to help pay for therapies, specialized education, equipment, and more.
Step 1: Call your insurance provider.
Before beginning your search, call your health insurance provider to determine what they will cover. Many insurers offer coverage for a limited number of therapy visits with associated diagnosis and still others may have complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) programs that cover therapies like aquatics, etc. If therapies aren't covered, you may want to consider whether an insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an option for your family. See the Insurance section for more information.
Step 2: Check with the Children with Medical Handicaps Program.
The Children with Medical Handicaps Program (BCMH) is a supplemental insurance program that helps families to cover out-of-pocket costs for diagnosis and treatment of conditions classified as “medical handicaps.” See the Children with Medical Handicaps Program section for more information.
Step 4: Look for resources in your county of residence.
Depending on your income and county of residence, you may be eligible for a county-based family assistance program. See the County Resources section for more information.
Step 5: Apply for a scholarship.
The state of Ohio offers scholarships for children with an autism diagnosis and for children with other disabilities attending a public school under an IEP. Both scholarships have rolling enrollment deadlines and require students to “opt out” of home school districts. For more information, see the Scholarships section.
Step 6: Apply for grants from nonprofits or charitable foundations.
There are many nonprofit and charitable foundations across Northeast Ohio (and the state) that offer grants to families in need.
Step 7: Contact a lending library.
Nonprofit “lending libraries” sometimes purchase therapy equipment and allow families to borrow these big-ticket items to provide at-home therapies. Check the Lending Libraries section for a list of these resources.
Step 8: Try fundraising.
More and more families are using online fundraising websites to help pay for therapies and treatments that are not covered by medical insurance. The Fundraising Sites section identifies a few of the largest online fundraising sites.
When calling your insurance provider, have your diagnosis codes ready and be sure to ask about:
If Therapies Aren't Covered:
Unfortunately, many insurance providers do not cover therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), occupational and speech therapies. If your provider does not cover the therapies your child needs, you may wish to consider a separate insurance plan for your child through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as "Obamacare."
If Medications Aren't Covered:
Families who use medications to help their children get the most from therapies may see a cost savings (which can result in additional money for therapies) by using several different prescription cost reduction options:
What is a diagnosis code?
Diagnosis codes are used to identify a specific illness or injury and will be assigned by your health care professional. These codes are then used by your insurer to determine eligibility for benefits.
Read more about diagnosis codes on Wikipedia.
You can learn more about BCMH and begin the application process from the Ohio Department of Health website. Please note that only a BCMH provider can submit your application. Ask your child's health care provider if they are a BCMH health care provider or use the locator from the Ohio Department of health to find a provider near you.
A free Family Handbook for Families of Children with Special Health Care Needs in Ohio is also available through the Ohio Department of Health.
The Children with Medical Handicaps Program (BCMH)
is a state-run program that provides supplemental insurance to families
of children diagnosed with a medical handicap. These diagnoses may
include (but are not limited to):
Ohio's Early Intervention (EI) Program is available at no cost to all Ohio families with qualifying children under three years of age. Call 1-800-755-4769 or complete the online referral to get started with this service.
Autism & EI
The Federal Government requires EI to provide Applied Behavior Analysis services (or pay for a qualified outside firm to provide them) for children under the age of three. Several firms have are certified to provide these services in Cuyahoga County. For more information, contact your EI caseworker.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), school-aged children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Depending upon the student’s disability status, elements of FAPE may include therapy services, such as speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy.
Disability status is evaluated and determined by the student’s home district. For more information or to request an evaluation, contact your local school board.
Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities
In addition to therapies and services offered through the board of developmental disabilities, Cuyahoga County residents with a financial need may apply for family resource dollars. For more information, see the Family Support Program website. For all other services, see the main site.
View in Connecting for Kids Service Provider Directory
Lorain County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Murray Ridge Center)
In addition to therapies and services offered through the board of developmental disabilities, Lorain County residents with a financial need may apply for family resource dollars. For more information, see the Family Support Program website. For all other services, see the main site.
Types of services the may be covered by county boards of developmental disabilities:
Autism Scholarship Program (ASP)
this scholarship allows parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders to waive public education and use state reimbursement to cover education and services outlined in a child’s IEP. Services must be provided from the approved autism scholarship provider list. Learn more about the application process and check for eligibility here.
Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program (JPSN)
Allows parents of children on an IEP to waive public education and use state reimbursement to cover education and supportive services under any disability diagnosis. Services must be provided from the approved Peterson scholarship provider list. Learn more about the application process and check for eligibility here.
(Autism spectrum disorder diagnosis only) Nonprofit organization providing resources (including referrals, funding and guidance) to individuals with ASD and their families.
(Autism spectrum disorder diagnosis only, military families only) Separate branch of the ACT Today! organization serving military families.
Different Needz Foundation
Helps families to purchase medical equipment and services for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Provides grants and gifts to programs and individuals with developmental disabilities. Assistance includes equipment, activities, camps/recreation, respite, and medicines. Income requirements apply.
(Lorain county residents only) Provides assistance to children (under 17) with disabilities for equipment, supplies, services or treatment that would not be considered payable by any other means. Contact Murry Ridge Center Service and Support Administration for an application.
Provides financial assistance to people with disabilities who may not otherwise be able to afford summer camp. Scholarship allows an individual to attend the camp of their choice (overnight or day camp available).
Gia Nicole Angel Foundation
Provides funds to cover the purchase of specific items to enhance the daily functioning of a child with special needs and his or her family. This includes children with any physical disability (such as, but not limited to: spina bifida, paralysis, missing limbs) or illness (such as, but not limited to: cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer). Funds are awarded on a case by case basis with preference given to lower income and single parent families.
(OH and MN families with autism spectrum disorder diagnosis only) Grant money may be used for therapies, adaptive devices and medical treatments.
The Lindsay Foundation
Assists families with resources necessary to provide medical treatment, therapies and rehabilitative equipment. Email for application.
The Maggie Welby Foundation
Offers grants for children and families who have a financial need for a particular purpose. Grants may extend to children and families in need of help with bills, athletic opportunities, medical needs, or an opportunity that a child would not otherwise have. Scholarship assistance is also available to families with a financial need.
Midwest Council for Children with Disabilities
Provides family grants to assist with the costs of providing medical treatments and therapies not otherwise covered by health insurance. Ohio grant application form can be found at the bottom of the Contact page.
Provide short-term financial assistance to individuals and families in temporary crisis who are working and live just above the poverty level. Modest Needs' mission is to help low-income workers who are struggling to shoulder the burden of a short-term emergency expense.
My Gym Challenged America Foundation
Supports individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities through gifts of services or programs (up to $500). Types of items include adaptive chairs, educational programming, therapy equipment, etc.
1-818- 907-6966 x117
(Autism spectrum disorder diagnosis only) Provides families with financial assistance for medical treatments/testing, supplements and behavioral therapy services through The Helping Hand Program. Strict financial guidelines apply.
(Lorain County residents only – at least 2 years residence) Contact the foundation via mail with a letter describing your child and their therapy needs. The foundation will reply with the appropriate forms to submit a full application.
Jodi M. Nead
the Orange Effect Foundation is a 501(c)3 foundation that empowers children and young adults (21 and under) with speech disorders to effectively communicate through technology and speech therapy.
Provides up to $1,000 to any family who has a minor (18 and under) with a life-altering illness or disability and is in financial crisis due to unforeseen medical expenses. Funds may be used as the recipient deems fit to help with their situation.
Prayer Child Foundation
Provides assistance to children 18 and younger with physical and emotional challenges. Print application (click Submit a Request).
Assists children with speech and language disorders by funding supplemental therapies and treatments.
(Ohio residents only) Provides support, financial assistance, as well as programs and activities for families with children with special health care needs. Family scholarships cover the cost of equipment or therapies and activities that are not funded by insurance or other agencies.
United Healthcare Children’s Foundation
Provides financial relief (up to $5,000 with lifetime max of $10,000) for families who have children (16 or younger) with medical needs not covered or not fully covered by their commercial health benefit plan. Must have commercial healthcare/dental to apply.
(Northeast Ohio residents only) Provides funding assistance to families with children with disabilities so that they may receive necessities not covered by insurance, government agencies or other organizations. Applicants must have an IEP, ISP, or lifelong disability that affects capacity for independent living, economic self-sufficiency, learning, mobility, social skills, receptive and expressive language, self-care, or self-direction.
Cerebral Palsy/Brain Injury Diagnosis Only Grants
Local Grants (based in Ohio)
Assistive Technology of Ohio
Offers adaptive devices (switches, keyboards, positioning seats, phones, iPads) and toys with the intent of helping Ohioans with disabilities to try items before making a purchase as well as a trading post (where families can trade/donate used devices) and a device rental program for low-vision/CCTV equipment.
Matthew’s Lending Library
(Lakewood, OH) Nonprofit providing adaptive therapy equipment and capability switch operated toys to children and young adults with special needs. Must apply for membership (click Contact tab for form).
RePlay for Kids
Works with agencies in Northeast Ohio to adapt mainstream battery-operated toys for the children they serve. If you qualify as a low-income family at your supporting agency, you may be able to receive a free adapted toy through the RePlay @Home program.
Fund It Forward
Nonprofit helping families to raise money for adaptive equipment not covered by health insurance. Organization funds family requests with the promise that the family will raise funds for the future requests of others.
Commercial online fundraising site. Charges 5% service fee and a credit card fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
Online fundraising site targeting medical expenses, living expenses associated with illness or injury and memorial funds. Charges 7.9% service fee + 30 cents for each transaction.
Commercial online fundraising site. Charges 5% service fee and a credit card fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
Charges only a credit card fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.