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How To Save Money On Autism Therapy Supplies
Not only is there a high emotional toll to be paid by parents when they have a child on the Autism Spectrum, there is a hefty financial one as well. A recent study revealed that family earnings when a child has autism are 28 per cent lower than those of a child without a health limitation. The real kicker is that while our incomes are going down, our expenses are going up. One-on-one therapy doesn't come cheap. Factor in the cost of respite, learning materials, safety items and a myriad of other things you never imagined you'd need, and your financial reserves can quickly become depleted. Now more than ever, we have to be penny-wise with whatever precious funds we are able to allocate to our children's therapy. Here are ten ways to help you stretch those therapy dollars.
1. Check out garage sales
Garage and yard sales are an excellent way to get learning materials and powerful reinforcers for your child. You can score some awesome toys, videos and other novel items that would otherwise cost you a fortune to buy new.
2. Get great used stuff online
Scour local sites like kijiji, craigslist and ebay. Not only can you save money, but you're also likely to find things that simply aren't available at your local toy shop like that set of Disney Aristocats figurines from McDonald's Happy Meals back in the '90s that my son simply adores.
These sites are of course also ideal for selling those items you are no longer using.
3. Ask for teacher discounts
Many educational shops and bookstores offer discounts to teachers, but will often extend this savings to parents of home-schoolers, especially when the student has special needs. It never hurts to ask... the worst they can do is say no!
4. Look for deals on office supplies
It's amazing how quickly we go through cardstock and other office supplies in order to keep up with our therapy program's need for new flashcards. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the only place you can buy office supplies is at an office supply store. I've found fantastic deals on paper online. The local dollar store is also a great resource for replenishing your office supplies, not to mention a host of other handy items like timers, books, puzzles and arts and crafts supplies.
5. Share materials with other parents
Network with other parents in your area and share toys and learning materials. While families who have kids with special needs may have more items, you may be able to benefit from exchanges with parents of neurotypical kids as well.
6. Buy a laser printer
I question the wisdom of us teaching my son how to independently print images he finds on the Internet! Like many individuals on the Autism Spectrum, he is an extremely visual learner and takes tremendous joy in simply looking at pictures of things he loves over and over again so he's almost constantly clicking that print button! Furthermore, despite the fact that we do rely heavily upon his iPad as a teaching tool, we still resort to paper for much of his learning material so the volume of printing we do is quite high to say the least. After doing some careful research, we decided that a laser printer was the way to go. While the initial financial outlay for the printer and its four pricey ink cartridges is high, when you look at the long-term expenses for printing, the price per sheet is reduced exponentially with a laser printer compared to using a cheaper inkjet printer.
7. Buy materials in bulk
If you have the storage space and ability to pay more up front, buy in bulk because the long-term savings will make it well worthwhile. Velcro® is one example where this definitely pays off. Instead of picking up a small package containing a dozen or so dots that we would go through in no time, I buy my Velcro® by the wheel online from a place called IDL displays.
Buying laminating sheets in bulk also yields great savings. The Lamination Depot has great prices on 100-per-pack boxes of letter-sized 5 Mil pouches.
8. Make your own stimuli
Instead of buying counters to work on numeracy or beads to practice fine motor skills, use everyday objects like popcorn for counting or dried pasta for threading.
9. Laminate papers that are used often
While laminating sleeves are not cheap, lamination can save money in the long run, preventing you from having to waste paper and ink by reprinting the same pages over and over. Laminated flashcards will last much longer which is ideal as you'll likely have to refer back to older cards from time to time to ensure that mastery of previously learned words is maintained.
Instead of printing the same coloring and worksheets over and over again, they too can be laminated and reused by using a dry-erase marker.
10. Search the Internet for free resources
There's an almost endless number of free resources available online that you can incorporate into your therapy program including:
- games (e.g. Sesame Street.org, PBSgames.org, nick.com)
- data sheets (e.g. Mariposa School Polyxo.com, Postively Autism)
- printable worksheets (e.g. Free Phonics Worksheets)
- online flashcards (e.g. Jacob's Lessons, KidsGoFlash.com)
- printable flashcards (e.g. Kids' Pages for Small Ages, brillkids, eFlashcards)