The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides support for Australians with disability, their families and carers. Support from the NDIS is also available to fund evidence-based interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
To get the most out of the NDIS, parents need to do their homework and be prepared. Here are our Top 10 Tips for accessing the NDIS:
1. Know how the NDIS works. Don’t wait until the NDIS arrives in your area. Start thinking about it now! In order to maximise your participation in the scheme, you need to know the scheme, inside and out. Visit the NDIS website and read it from cover to cover. Watch the webinars. Print the printable documents and put together a folder so you can keep all of the information in one easy to reach spot. Attend the NDIS information events in your region. Ask questions. Knowledge is POWER when it comes to accessing and making the most out of the scheme.
2. Learn the language of the NDIS. Make sure you know the difference between Core, Capital, and Capacity. Know the difference between a Local Area Coordinator and a Support Coordinator. Be sure you can distinguish between an Access Request Form and a Planning Meeting.
3. Learn the NDIS price guide. This guide is accessible on the website at https://myplace.ndis.gov.au/ndisstorefront/html/sites/default/files/documents/Provider/201617-vic-nsw-qld-tas-price-guide.pdf. Carefully review each of the 14 funded support categories. Your child’s plan will include a separate budget for each support category. For example, toilet training will fall into the support category 0004, Improved Daily Living Skills. A speech generating device or other communication device will fall into support category 0005, Assistive Technology. Therapy designed to improve social skills and family relationships will fall into support category 0011, Improved Relationships. Use these support categories as the basis for building your plan.
4. Have a clear vision. Put together a list of goals and measurable outcomes for your child. What are your long term goals for your child, and what are the short term steps that will help you get there? Use the free printable planning workbook to help you with this.This is also a great time to sit down with your team of providers to discuss your goals for your child and, as a team, come up with a plan to reach them. Plug the different supports you will need to reach these goals into the 14 funded support categories described above. This can generate a very useful document to bring to your planning meeting.
5. Understand the idea of reasonable and necessary supports. The NDIS is committed to funding reasonable and necessary supports for your child. It is important to know what this means, so you can be sure to ask for supports that are likely to be funded. The NDIS will fund supports that are directly related to your child’s disability, and NOT those related to day-to-day living costs that have no relation to your child’s disability. The supports must represent value for the money, are likely to result in meaningful improvements in your child’s health and independence, and take into account other informal supports that are already provided to your child from other family members, carers, networks, and community organisations. For example, the NDIS is likely to fund evidence-based interventions that will help your child learn to communicate effectively, complete daily self-care activities with independence, and participate in community-based recreational activities. The NDIS is NOT likely to fund day-to-day living costs, such as the cost of food or electricity, or supports that overlap with those provided by school.
6. Go to your planning meeting prepared. Bring diagnostic reports and all recent assessments that show evidence of your child’s specific skill deficits. Bring any recommendations from existing service providers. Bring any relevant health assessments or medical reports. Bring your completed planning workbook, and your list of goals and desired outcomes. Bring any literature supporting your chosen intervention. We recommend that families bring a copy of Prior and Roberts Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: ‘Guidelines for Good Practice’ (2012). Highlight this passage: “The amount of intervention is usually described as number of hours of treatment per week. Fifteen to twenty-five hours per week is generally recommended for autism early intervention in the research literature (Roberts & Prior, 2006) with some programs recommending as much as 40 hours per week” (page 5).
7. Highlight social inclusion. At its core, the NDIS values the social inclusion of people with disabilities. Highlight the ways in which your NDIS funded supports will help your child to be successful in inclusive environments.
8. Don’t accept a plan that you are not happy with. You don’t have to accept the first plan. If you feel that the plan you are offered is insufficient to cover the cost of reasonable and necessary support for your child, discuss this with your planner.
9. Take advantage of other supports. There are people out there who can help you navigate the NDIS, from helping you put together your access request form to helping you decide where and how to spend your funding. A support coordinator or disability advocate may be able to help you during and after the planning process, if you are unsure of what to do. Your NDIS plan may even fund the cost of a independent support coordinator, who can connect you with providers and help you implement the supports funded in your plan.
10. Remember that the hard work is worth it. The NDIS is new, which means that there will be some bumps along the way. However, the purpose of the scheme is to help you! The ultimate goal of the scheme is to allow your child to receive high quality intervention to allow him (or her!) to achieve his full potential. You know your child’s needs better than anyone. Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to advocate for what your child needs.