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How to Pay for Therapy for Your Child with Autism

As a parent of a child with autism, are you constantly worrying that you don’t have enough money to provide the best care for your child? Your fears are understandable, since studies estimate that the costs of raising one child with autism in the United States is $17,000, annually. These expenses include doctor visits, specialized care and therapy.

Therapy may not be covered by health plans or private extended health insurance, either. Many families go without or wait for years to get services that would have been beneficial if used earlier. On top of that, families of children with autism earn significantly less than those with children who aren’t in need of extended therapy. Mothers of children with autism earned 56% less in income compared to other mothers. This forces families to fall into debt to cover medical costs.
The common costs to raise a child with autism include:

  • The loss of one parent’s income: Children with autism require around-the-clock care. Though this can be done by a caregiver, many parents choose to quit their job and stay home to care for their autistic child. In a two-parent family, that means one parent must shoulder the burden of earning enough money to support the family and the extensive cost of care. For single parents, this can be an overwhelming situation.
  • Special education: Children with autism often cannot attend the same classes or schools as non-autistic children. This is because they require different learning environments and instruction. Specialty schools, tutors, and teachers can cost families several hundred dollars per month—or thousands per year.
  • Therapy: It has been shown that specialized therapies and activities help those with autism learn to function in a non-autistic environment. These therapies include speech and occupational with added activities such as music and swimming. But these activities can be expensive. Parents can spend hundreds of dollars annually sending their children to these special therapies that are imperative for the social development of their child.
  • Special equipment: Children with autism require specialized equipment to learn. Recent studies have shown that iPads help autistic children relate to the world, learn, and socialize in a non-confrontational environment. Parents who wish to provide their child with an iPad can expect to spend upwards of $500 for the most basic model.
  • Deficient health coverage:Unfortunately, many health insurance plans exclude treatment for autism or outright refuse to cover behavioral-related therapy because it is considered “educational” rather than medical. By denying coverage, parents are left to pay these treatment costs out-of-pocket, which can be several hundred dollars per visit, and visits can occur several times per week. Occupational and emotional therapy, for example, costs an average of $150 per session, which parents must pay themselves.

Does this all sound brutally familiar? So how do you pay for therapy for your child with autism?
In California, one of the main programs that helps parents with children with autism is In-Home Supportive Services.
IHSS is a California government program that provides financial support for in-home caretakers of children with developmental disabilities including autism. While a variety of benefits are available, the most important for families of children with special needs is “Protective Supervision.”
An IHSS provider is a caretaker (or a parent) who gets paid to oversee a child who is disabled so he or she can stay safely at home.
How much money can I get for IHSS?
Payments are calculated by the hours of service needed for your child. The County Social Services Agency is responsible for doing a needs assessment for each family at the time of application, every twelve months thereafter, and whenever the county has information that the recipient’s physical/mental condition or living/social condition has changed. The number of hours authorized may change with each evaluation
Can I qualify for IHSS?
To qualify for eligibility, you must apply for the service, and a county staff member must evaluate your child. The assessment is based on the individual and the needs associated, with determining factors such as age of the child with autism, lack of injuries, and parental absence.
As always, if you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
Dial (877) 762-0702 or email us at

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