Our (now) 4-year old son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 - which you may have known already from reading my blog in the past.
Some benefits that we qualify for - are truly unique and I'm constantly amazed and grateful for all of it.
*This is based on my family's experience - so if you're interested in these services - contact your doctor or social workers to see what you qualify for. I also reside in Jyväskylä - so different cities or districts may have variations to benefits.
Please also note that residents of Finland pay a lot in taxes - so they're not technically "free". These are government or city-funded.*
- Domestic Aids - these are people who are there to help you with your basic living/quality of life. They can be hired to clean your home, care for your children (in your home so you can sleep properly or even outside - so you can get stuff done), they do grocery shopping or running errands for seniors etc. Contact your Neuvola for more information.
- Your child doesn't have to be disabled for this service!!!!
- Free (limited) therapy sessions- both speech (and recently) occupational. You have to have formal requests from the doctors and fill out all kinds of paperwork - but I promise you - it's worth it. We are thrilled with our speech therapist and our occupational therapist for our son is also lovely and patient too.
- Free Diapers - this only applied to us once our son turned 3 and proved he refused to potty repeatedly. So I believe it's 3 or 4x a year - we can call this hotline and have diapers delivered to our door for our son. The city will pay for up to 5 diapers (maximum) per day and that's how many you get. You have to set up a delivery time and date and if you're not home to pick up the order - they'll just drop it off at the nearest post office...which would really suck if you don't have a vehicle to carry it all in...About 4-6 packages of diapers fit in each box and you get 4-5 boxes (depends on the size of diapers and how many per package etc.).
- "Extra caregiver benefits" - once a month we are awarded from the city a sum of money that helps us with all the extra bits we may need for our child or for ourselves. Loosely speaking - it's more or less money to help us make it through the month and not stress about things so much because caring for a child with special needs can be very exhausting.
- With this benefit plan set by the city and our social worker - because we do not have family here (not that it's a requirement) - we also are able to have our child stay overnight at a special place where he gets 24 hours a day round-the-clock supervision and care. Pretty much an overnight day-care (some are held in another family's home - that is specialized in handling and caring for children with special needs) that allows us a break from him and he gets a break from us for 3 whole days and nights per month.
- I was really hesitant about this "Overnight Care" (respite) for my son and felt like an awful parent for using this service (we get billed afterwards - approximately 30€ a month for those 3 days and nights) - but it's really helped us as a family in terms of being able to do things with our younger son and even being able to go out on a date once a month...because it's a lot easier to find a sitter who can handle a "normal/average child" than handle both a busy average child and one who is Autistic too.
- We have less stress in our marriage and with our youngest - who often starts trouble to get more attention (and I can't blame him) - because we're constantly busy with our oldest's needs - knows that when big brother is gone...he gets a break too.
- "Disability Benefits for a child under 16" - this is tax-free income and paid once a month via Kela.
- Free Day-Care - the reason a family can qualify for free day-care is because day-care in Finland is based on the total household income. Another reason a child can receive free day-care is because it's part of their rehabilitative program pertaining to their disability.
- Taxi Service - this is provided to our son only (so myself or spouse cannot hop in for a ride too) - so he can be transported to and from his day-care. It's not an easy service to qualify or be approved for - as I have other friends who applied for years before they were accepted (or they were not accepted at all). Every week-day that he goes to day-care - a taxi picks him up at 7:30am and drops him off by 3pm.
- Why we applied for it:
- We don't have a car to get him to day-care and it's over 3 km away from our home (45 minutes and without snow to push a stroller through - snow could or ice can easily add another 30 minutes depending!).
- I tried to take him by bicycle (with him in a child's seat) and he freaked out so much and grabbed my back-pack and we nearly fell over, while speeding down a hill.
- My other child goes to a different day-care quite close to our home.
- I have to be at school for 8am (class starts at 8:15) - so if I did drop him off by taking the buses - I would be late everyday for class...especially if he's having a difficult time settling down.
- My husband does have to go to his office regularly and also takes the dogs out in the morning (I do the evening shifts) so I can get to school on time.
Since having this extra help - it's been a lot easier being able to live in Finland with a disabled child.
I am truly grateful for everything we have and don't take any of it for granted because I know in Canada - we wouldn't get half of these services.
Originally posted on November 24, 2013 in my Learning About Finland blog.