It wasn’t long after the iPad first came out that it became clear what a powerful tool it can be for special needs kids. Easier to manipulate than a computer mouse or keyboard, the iPad is able to provide help with communication, motor control, spatial reasoning, and education. Unfortunately, all those benefits come with a hefty price tag. A new iPad plus a good protective case and apps can come out to around $750-800. If you think your child could benefit from this technology but you don’t want to break the bank, check out these ways you can go about getting an iPad completely (or mostly) free.
Ask Your School or Insurance
If your child would benefit from an iPad for communicating or taking notes in school, the school may be happy to provide one. Talk to officials for getting it put in your child’s IEP, and make sure that s/he can take it home from school, too. Other assistive devices can cost ten times as much as the iPad and are far less versatile. Emphasize this in your meeting and come prepared to support your claim that iPads are uniquely beneficial to special needs children (especially yours).
Your insurance company may consider covering an iPad under the category of Durable Medical Equipment. Call them and ask for a case manager who is experienced with special needs children and iPads. They may require that you get letters of medical necessity from experts who work with your child (speech therapist, pediatrician, neurologist). Show the insurance company that there is a real need for this tool and it is not just a toy. If you get denied the first time, apply again. If you get denied a second time, get a letter of rejection that you can provide to charities or in grant applications that request it.
There are plenty of foundations out there who provide financial assistance to families with special needs children. Some organizations specifically give out iPads. All you need to do is apply! Do some research on foundations in your area. The list of available grants is constantly changing (with deadlines passing and new funding opportunities arising), so you should definitely do some poking around to find out good places to apply. Below is a list to get you started. Note that they all have different deadlines, and some of these have requirements including financial need, specific geographic region, or they are only for children who are non-verbal. Make sure you qualify before spending time on the application!
- Babies with iPads
- Children’s Charity Fund
- Conover Company
- Different iz Good
- Gracie’s Hope
- Hannah and Friends
- iHelp for Special Needs
- Prayer Child
- Shelby Clark Memorial Fund
- Special Kids Therapy
- Sunshine Foundation
- The Lindsay Foundation
- United Healthcare Children’s Foundation
- Variety Children’s Charity
*Note: There are a number of organizations that give iPads specifically to children with autism. If your child has been diagnosed with autism, you may want to look into those.
Tips for Completing Your Grant Application
All of these organizations receive many, many more applications than they can fill. Do what you can to make your application stand out as much as possible. When it comes to grant applications, the little things can cost you an iPad!
- Do your research. Highlight specific apps that you plan to get and how they will help your child in a way that other devices can’t.
- Back it up. If you can find data supporting the benefits of a certain app, provide them.
- Show both the problem and the solution. Your grant proposal should leave the reviewer understanding how bad things are now and how great they will be once your child has an iPad. Include specifics about your child’s situation and health, including the struggles you have had and how you have worked to overcome them.
- Proofread. In fact, do it twice. And then ask your smartest friend to proofread it too. A well-written application with short, clear sentences will win over your reviewer; an application riddled with spelling and grammatical errors will go straight in the trash.
When looking into help from charities, it is generally more effective to stay local. Look into groups in your area who might be interested in sponsoring you and your child. There are tons of service clubs and organizations looking for projects. When you contact them, keep in mind the same tips as for your grant application. Here are a few examples of the kinds of organizations you should consider contacting:
- Lion’s Club
- Rotary Club
- Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts (especially if your child’s classmates are involved)
- Church groups or other religious organizations
- Local high school or university service clubs
- Fraternities or sororities at nearby universities
This list is just to start you off – there are many more, and if you get in touch, they may be eager to help you!
There’s no shame in asking your family, friends, and community to help you towards your goal. If you make clear the benefits of an iPad to special needs kids, it will feel less like they’re financing an expensive toy. You can use websites like Fundrazr to help. Facebook is a great way to get word out about your fundraising efforts. You might be surprised by contributions from old friends you’ve lost touch with, or, if you have some good friends who re-post about your cause on their wall, you might even get donations from compassionate strangers!
There are tons of ways to go about fundraising. Raffle off donated items. Bake sales are great (especially if you can get others to bake for you, too), but don’t be confined by baked goods; if you’re crafty, sell your crafts instead! You can also put on an event where you charge an entrance fee ($5-10) and have a big jar out for donations. It’s usually easy to get food donated for charitable events by calling or walking into restaurants, bakeries, or even grocery stores. For entertainment, set up face painting and game booths, ask local bands to play some music, or borrow a projector and show an outdoor movie on the side of your house. Just find a low-cost way to attract community members (and their wallets) to your event, and remind them that it’s all with the goal of helping your special needs child get an iPad. If you get the word out and plan well, this can potentially take care of the entire cost in just one day.
Call local news stations or community papers and websites and ask if they want to do a story on you and your fundraising efforts. This is a great way to get exposure and donations. The internet is also full of fundraising ideas, so do some quick googling and you’ll find something that works for you.
Saving (Without Hurting)
- After each cash purchase, put your loose coins in a special iPad savings jar. You won’t miss it, but it will add up.
- Have your bank start a separate savings account by withholding some money from each paycheck. If you can put aside $10/week, it won’t be long before you’re holding that new iPad.
- Ask that birthday and holiday gifts from family and friends be in the form of iTunes or Apple gift certificates.
- If your credit card offers rewards, points, or miles, put them towards the iPad.
- Find your costly habits, cut them out, and put that money towards the iPad. This includes expensive coffee drinks, movie theater visits, eating out, fancy cocktails, and splurgy shopping trips. If you get a $4 latte every morning and see a movie in theaters once a week (for a family of four = $40), you could be saving $68 per week and have your iPad (plus apps and accessories) in less than three months. The next time you catch yourself about to buy a pair of shoes you don’t need, skip the shoes but add the cost to your savings account. Small sacrifices can go a long way.
Everyone’s situation is a little different in terms of what they can afford and what their child’s needs are. Hopefully this list has an option for everyone interested in getting an iPad for their child with special needs. If you have the drive and are willing to put in some effort, your child will be on that iPad in no time!
For More on the iPad
10 Ways to Optimize Your iPad for Kids with Special Needs
iPhone and iPad iOS6 Disability Features Overview
iPod and iPad May Ease Transition into Workforce for Those with Disabilities
More on Getting your iPad Funded
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