If you ask autism families what their main concerns are when it comes to living with autism, chances are that financial issues will rank somewhere near the top of the list. During these times of economic downturn, saving money is crucial to everyone, but families facing the day-to-day challenges of autism are hit especially hard.
Expenses add up quickly considering that many individuals with autism are on special diets, have more health care expenses with the involvement of medical specialists, and often take a multitude of supplements, many of which are quite costly. Additionally, many families seek private education when the public school system can’t meet the needs of their children diagnosed with autism. One-time legal costs can also be considerable for families opting to seek guardianship on behalf of their children when they become adults.
So, how can families learn to stretch their dollars and become proficient at saving money? Looking at individual expense areas and matching money-saving tactics to them can be helpful in getting started. For example, biomedical interventions are becoming increasingly popular among parents in treating their children with autism, but typically such costs aren’t covered by insurance. Often, parents can expand insurance coverage by making sure that medical coding reflects what specifically is being treated, i.e. gastroenteritis vs. the vastly wider code for “autism.”
Whenever starting a new supplement, it’s a good idea to first purchase a sample size that some manufacturers make available to customers. The cost for the sample size is considerably less expensive and if the supplement proves unhelpful or isn’t well-tolerated, the price for the full size version hasn’t been wasted. Additionally, some insurance providers cover the costs of supplements from compounding pharmacies if prescribed by a physician, so check with your provider to see if this is the case.
For other health care expenses not covered by insurance, it’s worth looking into Medicaid and state waiver programs that sometimes can assist. These programs vary somewhat from state to state, but most will cover co-pays for primary care provider visits, prescriptions, and some lab testing.
Most importantly, save all receipts relating to the health of your child—even receipts for food items if your child is on a special diet on the advice of a physician. The difference between the cost of a regular loaf of bread at the grocery store and a gluten-free loaf from the health food store can be $2.00 or even more. Over the course of a year, the amount of money spent to maintain a GF/CF diet can be substantial—and the difference you pay from “normal” diet purchases can be written off if you retain the receipts and can document the diet recommendation from your child’s health care provider.
If you prepare your child’s special diet meals from scratch, you’ll also save considerably by avoiding the often extremely expensive ready-made health food store items. Again, save the receipts from anything purchased to prepare foods for special diets as these will come in handy when preparing your tax return.
While it takes some organizational skills and diligence in keeping track of autism-relevant receipts, it can make a huge difference for families at tax time. For more strategies to make the most of applicable tax deductions to save you even more money, don’t miss our February/March issue available on January 3, 2020.