How to get an iPad for a child with Special Educational Needs

We often get asked by parents and carers whether they can get financial assistance towards obtaining an iPad for their child with Special Educational Needs.  For children with learning disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and hearing impairment, an iPad is not just a portable way to watch their favorite film.  It can be a powerful communication aid, give them a voice if they cannot speak and allow them to write when they cannot hold a pen. In the UK there are a number of bodies that award grants for iPads to children with special needs.

We signpost families and professionals to the national charity ‘Contact a Family’, http://www.cafamily.org.uk , who have regional offices throughout the UK, and maintain up to date lists of organisations and eligibility criteria. Some grants are means tested and some not, some support a particular disability and some a certain age range. Others may be regional. Deadlines open and close and availability and eligibility may change over time.

The Family Fund, http://www.familyfund.org.uk. , is the UK’s largest charity that provides grants to families raising disabled and seriously ill children, and offers iPads in different configrations. Typically to apply for any grant you will need two supporting letters from professionals such as a teacher, SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), speech therapist, health professional, or social worker. It needs to be someone who is currently active in supporting your child, and can validate their need and the benefits.  Form filling can be time consuming, and before you put pen to paper you can easily phone or email the organisation to check your eligibility. Grants may cover all or parts of the device. We recommend that you also request some app store vouchers to buy apps, because many of the best educational apps are not free. The cost of a protective cover to suit your child can also be included.

We know of many children who have been awarded an iPad in this way. Frequently these devices are taken into school and this allows content and apps to be used there as well as in home.  It is important to have the agreement of your school, and this should be in writing, and cover essential issues including responsibilities in case of damage or loss, and privacy including the devices use of taking and sharing photographs.  My son William brings personal stories home from school on his device, so that he can show us what he has been doing, despite his communication difficulties.

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