How to apply for autism grants
Applying for grants can seem like a daunting process. Don’t let paperwork, reference letters, and the waiting game discourage you from filling out an application. As an increasing volume of research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is published, public awareness is rising, and services—including grants—are more readily available than ever.
The first step in applying to autism grants is to identify your family’s needs. Perhaps your family needs the grant to cover costs of supplemental therapies like art, music, or hippotherapy. Maybe you are seeking a grant to fund private school tuition. There are even grants that help bring sensory-friendly play equipment to your local playground.
Matching your family’s needs to an appropriate grant is made easier by comprehensive lists provided by the Autism Support Network, the American Autism Association, and the Outreach Autism Services Network. If you are unsure whether or not you meet qualifications for a grant or are unable to find one to meet your needs, your child’s treatment team might be able to recommend some to you.
After you have identified which grant(s) is/are best suited for your family’s needs, it is time to begin the application process. A bit of research on the grant you are applying for and its past recipients can be hugely beneficial when crafting your application. You might notice a trend in the way winning applications are crafted. Some grants are awarded to those who submit video applications demonstrating a need and enthusiasm. Others might value facts over emotion and require financial statements or diagnostic paperwork.
If possible, include a statement from your child with autism and any siblings or family members who would benefit from the grant as well. Letters from community members who support your family, teachers, and friends can be valuable supplements to your application. If you can submit additional documents or information, take advantage of the opportunity to showcase your family’s need and, more specifically, what you would do with grant and how it would impact your child with autism’s life.
Now the waiting game begins. Some applications have a set date they will announce the recipients and others run annually or seasonally with only a submission deadline. For grants with a smaller applicant pool (highly specialized or local grants), it might be worthwhile to follow up with the sponsoring organization or send a thank you email for their time and consideration. It may not be possible to follow up on highly competitive grants, but it could be worth your time to send a brief “thank you” anyway.
As you wait for your application to be reviewed, ease the anticipation by identifying your next steps if you are not selected. Are you allowed to apply for the grant again during the next application cycle? Are there other grants for which you can begin applying? Do you have a backup plan to raise essential funds if necessary? Placing your eggs in more than one basket can ease tension as you await a response.
Autism grants in your area
Luckily, autism grants are cropping up regularly, so there is likely more than one you can apply for at any given time. Regional autism grants are a fantastic opportunity to apply against a smaller applicant pool and appeal to Grantors who are in touch with your community’s needs. Your child’s treatment team, other families with children with autism, and community events are great ways to hear about available grants in your area.
Beyond word of mouth, local Facebook groups for families with a child with autism could be a lucrative place to find grants. Many Grantors will advertise their grants in such groups as well as through email lists. Even if you do not receive services from a local provider, joining their email list might prove beneficial.
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Different benefits for autism grants
Due to the wide variety of abilities and needs of children on the autism spectrum, grants are quite diverse. Educational scholarships are typically geared towards university students, but local grants may cover the cost to attend a private school. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) even has an inclusive program that covers the cost of university in exchange for CIA employment upon graduation. If your high school student is particularly gifted in science, technology, mathematics, medicine, or engineering, he/she might consider applying for the Foundation for Science and Disability’s annual grant for students with autism. High school seniors who learn differently and plan to pursue higher education could apply to the RISE Scholarship Foundation.
Recreational grants help you give your child with autism a fun and enriching childhood. Jack’s Dollars Scholarship is one such organization that gives children in Michigan $250 annually to help fund children’s passions for arts and crafts, dance, hobbies, music, recreation, and sports. National programs such as My Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation sponsors a variety of recreation activities and equipment such as horseback riding, swimming, holiday gift cards, and iPads. A list of additional foundations that specifically supply iPads for educational and recreational use can be found here.
Research on the benefits of service dogs for children with autism has been on the rise in the past five years, with several studies citing improved behavior and an increase in the safety of children with service canines. As the costs of these dogs are prohibitive for many families, grants that assist with or fully cover the cost of a service dog are on the rise. Can Do Canines has been training service dogs for children with autism since 2007. The $25,000 training fee per dog is waived due to the generous contributions of donors. Children aged 2-7 years old can apply to be matched with a dog. If your child is unable to be placed with a Can Do Canine, the Assistance Dog United Campaign offers grants to pay training fees at other organizations.
If you still have not found what you are looking for, this list of miscellaneous grants might be your answer. It includes organizations such as Angel Flight, which pays airline tickets to fly you and your child to receive treatment or see specialists, and A.N.G.E.L. Inc., who supplements treatment costs up to $500.
No matter what type of grant you apply for, be sure to dot your I’s and cross your T’s before submitting documentation. Missing information could render your application incomplete and result in it being passed over for consideration. Take the extra time to review your application and supporting documents. Have a trusted friend review it to make sure you have not missed anything. Once you are satisfied with your application, it is time to submit. Good luck!