Getting the services your child needs can be challenging, but you are not alone! Your best source for help and advice? Other parents who have been there and done that. Many parents are eager to share their experience, knowledge and support. Start with Texas Parent to Parent, an organization staffed largely by parents of children with disabilities. They can answer your questions and tell you how to contact other helpful parents in your area. Also see Tips from Parents Who've Been There at the bottom of this page.
Realize you may have to deal with multiple agencies, especially if your child has a visual impairment, hearing loss, multiple disabilities, or complex medical needs. Sound impossible? It’s not. It may be a challenge, but other parents have done it, and you can, too. And it’s worth the effort to get help for your child from professionals and specialized programs.
Need a picture to help you understand the system? Here is an image (or infographic PDF) that maps all the agencies and resources highlighted in articles on our website. We’ve also included clickable links in the legend to make it easy for you to use this information.
Understand that different agencies and programs have different eligibility requirements. Income and diagnosis requirements can vary. Some services have you submit an application through a state agency, but others have you go through a local agency. Learn as much as you can before you submit applications.
Try to work with case managers. Some state agency programs and insurance companies have case managers to help you find services. If you don’t have someone helping you when you call a program for services, ask if they have case managers that can help you find all the services in the system that might help with your child’s needs.
Calling 2-1-1 can be a great place to start. This confidential service can help you find community resources, apply for state benefits and get other government services you may need. 2-1-1 works statewide. It is a partnership of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Area Information Centers.
If you need insurance or help paying for food or bills you can complete an online application or ask for help with the application process by calling 2-1-1. Callers are connected to information centers in their region.
When you call you can ask to be connected to someone who can help you complete an application for benefits over the phone. You will be asked for birthdates, social security numbers, income information, bills you pay, etc. If you are prepared the process will go faster. One application covers all HHSC benefits.
2-1-1 uses a database to find results when people call for help. Sometimes the words you use to describe your needs are not the ones used by 2-1-1 to organize the information about programs. If the results aren't what you are looking for or there are just a few results, ask the operator what other words can be used for the search. Sometimes you have to try different search terms.
We asked experienced parents for some tips about getting services from government agencies for children with disabilities. Here’s what they told us:
- Know before you go. Learn about the program from other parents and do some research online. This will help you ask better questions.
- Verify the information you are given. Read the program requirements. If you are denied entry or eligibility, make sure you understand why. If you still don’t agree with the outcome, ask if there is an appeals process.
- Read any letters or reports you are sent. Don’t ignore anything. Sometimes you can find helpful information where you least expect it.
- Ask questions about everything you don't understand, and about any outcome you think is unfair. Stay positive and polite, but be persistent. Ask for a supervisor if necessary. Sometimes, you may still end up unsatisfied. It happens. But make sure you understand why things turned out the way they did.
- Policies change and there are often exceptions. Ask for help from a case manager or a knowledgeable person to make sure you have explored all the possibilities.
- Get information and help through an online ListServ. Other parents are always willing to share their successes and insights. Sometimes just hearing stories from other parents who have been through the same thing can help. These ListServs from Texas Parent-to-Parent can help you get started.