Enjoy! And feel free to share other great free things for kids with special needs in the comments.
Free lifetime pass to national parks, wildlife refuges and many national forests
This is a free pass to more than 2000 recreation sites for U.S. citizens or permanent residents of any age who have a permanent disability; they can be accompanied by three fellow passengers in the car. Admission isn't always free—it may just be discounted—so check the site you're planning to visit. The application is here; there's a $10 processing fee plus documentation is required.
Free iPads and apps
The HollyRod Foundation's Gift of Voice program provides tablets pre-loaded with apps and games to children with autism in need. Small Steps in Speech funds supplemental treatments and therapies not covered by insurance for children with language and speech disorder; Danny's Wish provides iPads to kids with autism. The itaalk Autism Foundation has an App Facilitator Program that provides kids with disabilities of all kinds with up to $250 in free apps per calendar year.
Variety gifts bikes to kids with special needs through local chapters, find your chapter here.
Free customized songs
The non-profit Songs of Love Foundation creates custom songs for kids and teens facing medical, physical and emotional challenges. They'll create professionally-produced lyrics featuring the child's name and references his or her favorite stuff, with a performer singing it.
Free photo shoot
Families of kids with special needs who are stretched thin with medical or therapy bills may apply for a Smiles for Katie Family Photo Grant, through Special Kids Photography of America (SKPA) to receive a free photo shoot and 8 x 10 photo. The grant is named after a four-year-old with Down syndrome, Katie, who passed away while on vacation with her family. You can apply for the grant only if work with an SKPA photographer. Details and the application are here.
The National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped offers free braille and audio materials—via postage-free mail—to people who have visual or physical impairments that prevent them from reading or using standard print materials. They also have musical scores in braille and large print.
Free plane trip rehearsals
The Arc's Wings for Autism—a national program—allows individuals with autism (along with their families) to "rehearse" a plane flight, complete with obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Find upcoming program locations here.
GRANTS AND FUNDING PROGRAMS FOR KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Different Needz Foundation: Awards annual grants to individuals with developmental disabilities.
First Hand Foundation: Provides grants that cover treatment, equipment, vehicle modifications and displacement expenses for families of kids who have to travel during treatment.
Hannah's Helping Hands: Offers quality of life and summer camp grants for families that care for children and adults with special needs in Florida, Indiana, Rhode Island and New York.
The Lindsay Foundation: Provides assistance with purchasing rehabilitative equipment, seating systems, strollers, transport chairs, therapies and medical procedures for children under age 18.
The Prayer Child Foundation: Provides financial assistance to children eighteen years old and younger with physical and emotional challenges. Submit a request here.
Small Steps in Speech: Awards speech therapy grants to individuals up to age 22.
UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation: Offers grants for kids 16 years old or younger who are already covered by a commercial health plan and require medical services/items that go above and beyond the coverage offered.
Variety - The Children's Charity offers grants to pay for equipment, products and services for kids with special needs. Check with your local chapter.
GRANT PROGRAMS FOR KIDS WITH AUTISM
ACT Today! Has a grant program for assessments, treatments and life support for children with autism, plus an Act Today! SOS grant for immediate and imperative needs.
Autism Speaks Cares: Offers annual grants for purchasing iPads, online applications typically open in early November for one week; for the most up-to-date info, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also offers family grants during times of crisis or unplanned hardships (including natural disasters, death or critical illness in the immediate family, or loss of home or job). For up-to-date info, email director Serena Selkin at email@example.com.
DREAM FULFILLMENT PROGRAMS FOR KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
While amazing organizations like Make-A-Wish America, Kids Wish Network and Children's Wish Foundation International exist to fulfill dreams of children with terminal and life-threatening illness, there are nonprofits that also grant wishes for children with disability, chronic illness or with physical challenges including:
For an extensive list of sports, travel and leisure activities for people of all ages with disability, check out disability.gov
If any links no longer work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org