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Low Cost Assessment and Support Options

Assessments and services can frequently be cost-prohibitive. At REEL, we are frequently asked about free or low-cost options that don’t break the bank.


*Please note! This is not a comprehensive list, but a collection of recommendations by our community. These resources have not been vetted by the REEL team. Everyone will have their own experiences, we urge you to use this list only as a starting point. Please email us if you have more ideas to add.

  • Get a special education assessment through your school district (even if you homeschool) through age 18 (unless you graduate early). See our IEP guide for 2e students (coming Oct 2023).

  • Get an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) through your school district.

  • Contact Parents Helping Parents (PHP) for free support with special education, assistive technology, mental health, and more. PHP staff speak many different languages, including English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

  • Contact Children’s Health Council (CHC) for assessments and ongoing therapies. CHC offers financial assistance and accepts Medi-Cal.

  • Some diagnoses can be obtained from your pediatrician or a developmental pediatrician

  • UCSF, Stanford, and similar universities run studies where part of the study is doing an autism assessment or other type of evaluation. These are free and they usually pay you for participating in the study, as well as give you the report and go over results with you. (e.g. search for "Stanford autism research study")

  • Some medical centers do a great job of getting insurance to cover your needs. One parent wrote: In San Francisco, the CPMC/Sutter Kalmanovitz center has a number of services (and a great OT gym). They are great at working with insurance to get things covered, and they have a sliding scale I believe when insurance won't cover. Service level depends on the staff there at the time. But I've had 100% success with all the OT evaluations and OTs -- they have always been excellent!

  • Sometimes you can get a reduced cost assessment by working with a trainee/student in a graduate program (under the guidance of a professional). Try calling Stanford, UCSF, Summit Center, etc.

  • Students with an autism diagnosis can get many services through the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) One parent: DOR paid for her son’s tuition and books for 5 years of college. Regional Center paid for two of her son’s summer internships at Lawrence Livermore. SSI/SSDI paid for her son’s rent/room & board for the 5 years he was in college. She had to create an ABLE account to shield her son’s earnings from his many summer internships. And she protects her son’s ability to continue to receive public services through a Special Needs Trust.

  • The State of California published this Self-Help Information for Special Education Cases, which includes information on low-cost or free advocate and attorney options.


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