Please note: My three boys have more diagnoses than sensory processing disorder. They have the invisible SPD, but also a facial difference that has led to stares and rude comments, as well as a life threatening brain condition that led to unexpected surgery. It’s been a whirlwind. You can read more about the brain drama HERE.
When I heard the number on that first occupational therapy bill, I was astonished.
More than our meager monthly food budget.
More than we could ever afford.
I tried to convince myself we could make it work.
But we were already in debt. (I don’t recommend graduating college the year of a world financial crash!)
I thought about taking on a job, but then I wouldn’t be able to help my son with this new overwhelming diagnosis.
I called my mom. And as usual, she reminded me that I was capable and creative. Mamas are stubborn and problem solvers. She had walked a similar path with my brother and she was a huge encouragement to me.
So if you find yourself in need of sensory intervention, but money is extremely tight, maybe these ideas might help.
How to Continuing Affording Occupational Therapy
Currently, SPD is not officially recognized by insurance companies. So OTs will give your child a “side” diagnosis like poor coordination or something else to warrant the need for occupational therapy.
If your insurance company rejects covering treatment for a particular diagnosis, talk to your OT office if there is another work around. Usually the staff are a lot more knowledgeable about codes and what other insurance companies have accepted in the past. They may even have contacts within the insurance companies that are more amiable.
Spread Out OT Sessions
Ideally, kids with sensory issues will be seen by an OT weekly, if not MORE often. But this is a case where something is DEFINITELY better than nothing. If you can afford it, see if you practice is willing to see you every other week or even just monthly.
Progress may be slower, but you’ll have expert eyes on your kiddo regularly as well as their advice when things crop up.
Ask for Home Activities
Even if you find a way to have weekly OT, STILL ask for exercises to do at home. Sensory input needs to happen daily (in an ideal world, kids would get a sensory break every HOUR!) and it needs consistently. Parents are in the ideal situation to make that happen, so make sure your OT doesn’t skip that part!
Consider Different Insurance
Many companies offer a variety of insurance plan options, so see if your company has better coverage with a different plan. While considerably more drastic, my husband and I have tossed around the idea of getting work at a local coffee shop with INCREDIBLE benefits. (When you spend 50% of your income on medical stuff in a year, you start thinking outside the box!)
At Least Avoid Interest
While I don’t suggest going into debt, there are times when medical necessities dictate it. For those times when we just couldn’t wait for a brain MRI or needed to get therapy before things got worse, we used CareCredit. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, but CareCredit delays interest rates for up to 2 years so if you pay it off before that, you’re golden. It’s saved our hides a couple times!
What to Do When You Can’t Afford Occupational Therapy
Free Sensory Activities
There are SO many sensory activities you can do with zero equipment. Consider these eight ways to Help a Sensory Seeker Get Their Energy Out.
Or look around your house! Here’s some ways we’ve used our common Furniture for Sensory Activities.
Consider what sensory equipment will give you the best bang for your buck. This is a massive list of sensory toys organized by type. I’d suggest getting a swing and a used indoor trampoline. Both tools offer BOTH proprioception and vestibular input and depending on the swing type, even tactile input!
It can be so intimidating to know your child is dealing with a challenge that experts spend years educating themselves about. But Mama, you are motivated by a force that can topple nations and change the world. Don’t sell yourself short!
One of my favorite quotes by my favorite educator reminds moms that “Mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” – Charlotte Mason
So get researching! Take some courses (I happen to have a course called Sensory Parenting 101 that is the perfect foundation that will equip you to turn things around for your child!)
Have more questions??? Check out this wildly popular series of Sensory FAQs and become a more confident sensory parent today!
If you have any tips or tricks that have helped you either afford occupational therapy OR ways to DIY it, please share that with us all in the comments!