Tips on Applying for Financial Aid

Financial Planning Tool Kit

Below is a post by J-Jaye Hurley, autism mom and Autism Speaks Autism Response Team coordinator.

1. Print all pages of the application and read them carefully. Twice.

These applications are usually lengthy and complex so you must review their own requirements.  Many applications ask for similar items (tax statements, IEPs, etc) but they are ALL in a different format. If you do not provide the information they request AND in the format they request, you can be denied.  If you do not send in all the information at the same time, you can be denied. Also review their application criteria before you apply. A friend of mine filled out a long application only to realize they didn’t provide assistance for the therapy she was interested in.  Know all requirements before diving in.

2. Be aware of deadlines.

Some family grants are year round but the majority I applied for had specific deadlines. In fact, I was unable to apply for one that I wanted because I missed their annual deadline. If you are requesting therapy notes or letters of recommendation, make sure you allow plenty of time to gather all information, complete application and send in PRIOR to that deadline. If they receive your application after the deadline, you will be denied.

3. Be concise and honest.

Most organizations review thousands of apps, and the majority of the application is financial information. However, most apps ask the parent for some personal information about the child. Make sure you tell them about your child, why you need their help and how this will make a difference for your child and family.  They don’t need your entire life story, but they do need you to be honest and upfront about your needs and situation. Most of our stories speak for themselves so just be yourself and speak from the heart. We are passionate parents and advocates by nature so go with what you know – your child.

4. Get recommendations.

Some applications say they will accept letters of recommendation but don’t require them. I recommend your seeking those letters as they only serve to provide additional information on your child and family to this anonymous committee. Ask your therapists, physicians or family members. You can save letters and use them for multiple applications each year.

5. Have a friend/spouse review your apps.

Before you mail in your completed applications, have someone review it for you.  My husband caught typos & had suggestions. As a former English teacher, I always recommend having another pair of eyes review your writing. Applications are no exception!

6. Include a picture of your beautiful child!

This helps bring a personal and real connection to those reading your applications.  

7. If at first you don’t succeed, apply and apply again!  

I was turned down for some of my applications and I plan to re-apply before this year deadlines. Make a copy of your completed application, as it stays basically the same from year to year. It is much easier to update last year’s application than start from scratch on a 10 page app. Update your new information and try again. 

Read more from the Autism Speaks Special Needs Financial Planning Tool Kit.