Saturday, 27 September 2014

Benefits for My Autistic Son in Finland

I thought I would write something a little more personal in terms of family life here and how it affects me living in Finland.

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.


  1. Hi! My name is Elaine and I recently studied abroad at the University of Jyvaskyla. As result of my coursework abroad, I am left writing a research analysis on the comparrisons and contrasts between Finnish and American treatment of special education children with an emphasis in speech therapy treatment. After a goggle search, I came across your blog post and am left with much curiousity. If it would be okay with you, I would love to learn more about your experience! Please let me know, I also recently just followed your FB page! Thank you so much for your time!

    1. Hi Elaine!

      Sure sounds great!
      You can message me on the Facebook page and I'll respond ASAP! :D