Having a child with special needs is something that only a family with similar challenges can fully understand. The disability can progress from something that you have to deal with to a fact of life that consumes you. When my son was young, I knew there was “a problem.” Starting the process of finding out what the problem was became the beginning of a nightmare. So many doctors, various diagnoses, tests, medications and yet, the behavior of my son got worse and worse. It took eight years to finally get a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. It was actually a relief to finally know what we were up against. This was over ten years ago, and at the time, my husband and I had very little help and felt very alone; but now, there are a variety of programs and resources available for parents who have special needs children.
The first thing parents should do is search for a support group in their area. This can make a great deal of difference in coping with your child when you have the understanding of others that are going through the same thing. The federal government also allows for benefits that parents can apply for when submitting their income tax for disabled children (Child Disability Benefit) under the age of 18 and living at home. Parents will be able to claim benefits that can range up to $2400.00 per year.
Individual provinces also offer financial assistance. For example, there is the Child Assistance-Supplement for Handicapped Children which provides funding for the treatment, education and care of children with disabilities in Quebec. This is not based on family income or the severity of the impairment. Allowance for Special Needs is a Quebec government program that supplies equipment that the child may need in order to successfully receive their education either at school or at home.
Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) is a program in Ontario that provides funding for parents that can range up to over $400.00 towards the extra cost of caring for a special needs child and their varying needs. There is also additional money available to pay for such things as:
- Travelling to appointments related to your child’s disability; for instance, doctors and specialists.
- Special clothing or footwear.
- Aids required in order for living a more normal lifestyle.
- Medications and treatments.
The Incontinence Supplies Grant Program is run by the Easter seals Program in Ontario and is funded through the Ministry of Health and is for children between the ages of 3-18 that suffer from disabilities that result in retention or incontinence problems and are in need of supplies.
The Special Services at Home (SSAH) is a program funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services that deals with children with developmental disabilities to be able to continue to live at home. This gives parents the funding towards purchasing different services and supports that they are not able to afford on their own.
The Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity offers a great deal of support for parents of children with disabilities living in Ontario. The will provide funding for such areas as:
- Educational programs.
- Emergency financial problems.
- Medical treatment that is not covered by private health plans or government Medicare.
- Respite care which provides relief for parents for a specified amount of time; for example, a weekend break.
President’s Choice Children’s Charity aims to provide families with the ability to live more normal everyday lives. Coping with a disability is difficult enough but if you don’t have the finances to purchase equipment for your child it makes it even more of a strain. Some of the qualifying objects would include physical therapy, ability to make modifications to their environment and mobility equipment.
Being a parent of a special needs child is never easy but there are programs out there that can help make life more stress-free. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Be involved in your child’s education as the federal government has dedicated more funding yearly for assisting children with disabilities, so getting a designated teachers assistant is much more accessible. My son is now 19 and in University and doing very well. Never ever give up hope that, above all, you will get over many hurdles.