Lower-Cost Alternatives to Therapy Items

The Hatzell basement playroom
I'm not one to complain much, but if there's one thing that irks me about having kids with special needs, then it's this: Having kids with disabilities is very expensive.

Therapies and equipment, though prescribed, are often not covered fully (or at all) by insurance and that's just a teensy bit annoying. Okay, it royally sucks rocks. Anything that is designated "special needs" is automatically marked up by a few George Washingtons and I feel like they are taking advantage of special needs parents just because they know we'll shell it out to help our kids.

One thing I've figured out in the past few years, however, is how to save a little bit of money and still help my kids at the same time. Forget those overpriced catalogs you get in the mail! Even if you're the complete opposite of Martha (Le Sigh. Me.) you can still save money by having just a little ingenuity.


Firstly, make sure you have a few of those ridonkulously overpriced therapy catalogs on hand. Go through them and take a good look at the pictures. Anything look familiar? Yes! That's because some of the stuff they sell in those catalogs can be purchased at your local discount department store or made cheaply and easily with help from a local crafts supplier.

Take therapy swings, for example. On one of the more popular therapy supply websites, therapy swings can cost a few hundred dollars. If you are lucky enough to live near a certain Swedish furniture chain, you can choose between a few adequate swings to purchase for about $20. Yes, I said TWENTY. And they sell Koja tents ($9.99) and Speja Tunnels ($19.99) at IKEA and blocks and chairs and the list goes on. In fact, a few years back when we were paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for therapy that our insurance company didn't cover, I walked my son into the therapy room and saw the PS Lomsk swivel chair ($79) that I purchased from IKEA. Fancy therapy place! Expensive! SHOPS AT THE SAME STORE. And you need to go there, too. And get Swedish Meatballs. You can't leave the store without those. Just sayin'.

Need more convincing? At the center of my universe, Target, they have many sensory toys, games, pillows, and blankets for a fraction of the cost of those online catalog stores. I mean, if you WANT to pay $10 more for Apples to Apples ($21.99) than at Target, by all means, go for it. But I'm thinking that you'd like to save a few dimes like the rest of us. If that's the case, you can also find sensory balls ($16.99), Doodlepros ($14.99), and every Autistic child's dream, LEGOS.

Need Physical Therapy equipment? They have weighted balls ($14.99), mini trampolines ($39.99), and large exercise balls ($9.99), too.

On a tighter budget? I've purchased plastic storage tubs and filled them with rice and beans for sensory play, gone to dollar stores for shaving cream and toothbrushes for fine and oral motor stimulation, and even hit up local thrift stores to find odds and ends to supplement play learning. Did you know you can find fabric in thrift stores like Goodwill? And if you cut them into little rectangles, take a needle and thread to them, and fill them with beans or rice, they make awesome little bean bags for OT and PT?

You can take leftover foam from pillows and cushions and shove them in an old duvet cover and make a free crash pit (my kids trashed the couch, might as well reuse the stuffing, right?). I'll even admit to going to pet stores and finding sensory brushes. Never mind, I'm not admitting I bought my kid a dog toy. But the point is, with a little creativity, you can save money on this stuff.

Unless you like spending all of your hard-earned dough, in which case, carry on. Nothing to see here. These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Have an idea on how to save money on special needs items? Please share it below!


Photo via Marj Hatzell

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