Disability Services for Children

How to Plan Your Child’s Disability Services

Finding the right care and support for your child to learn, grow and thrive can sometimes be stressful and a little overwhelming. An important first step can be knowing what disability services are available, how to access them and how the NDIS can help.

What options for disability services are available?

There are a number of options that can be explored when it comes to figuring out the right disability services for your child. These services can help by providing specialist supports and resources for your child and family to help them reach their full potential.

One of the top options, you can take as a parent is to consider Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) if your child is aged between 0-6 years old. ECEI can include therapies to develop your child’s motor, social, communication and behavioural skills to minimise the impact of their disability and the need for ongoing support.

Other options can be explored by contacting your General Practitioner (GP) or health professional who might be able to refer you to a disability service provide or searching for local providers yourself.

Service providers may be able to help with:

  • Life skills development (training to use public transportation and general mobility, daily living skills, self-esteem, home and community safety, and the use of Assistive Technology)
  • Multidisciplinary services (speech and language pathology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, behaviour intervention and support, social work and psychology)
  • Daily living support (personal care, in-home assistance, social and communication support to help your child undertake daily living activities).
  • Community access support (group and one-on-one social support, companionship and recreational activities to build social independence).
  • Case management (liaison with support providers, coordination of service delivery and skill building to help you and your child exercise choice, create a stable home environment, live as independently as possible).
  • Goods and equipment (medical aids and equipment to help increase mobility, communication, independence in personal and health care).
  • Respite services (in-home, host family, centre-based and vacation care).If you child is old enough, talk with them about the care options available and work together to decide what the best option is for them. This can help build your child’s confidence and capacity to make important life decisions in the future.

Transitioning to the NDIS

When your child turns seven, if they need long-term support, they can apply for access to the NDIS. To access the NDIS, you’ll need to ensure your child fits the NDIS eligibility criteria. If they are eligible, you’ll be contacted by the NDIS to schedule a Planning Meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for you and your child to be able to discuss their support needs and most importantly, their goals.

The NDIA is big on goals. Which means it can be a good idea to talk with your child before their planning meeting about what their short, medium and long-term goals and what steps need to be taken to achieve those goals. That way you, your child and the NDIA Planner or Local Area Coordinator (LAC) will have a clear idea of what your goals and support needs are in your Planning Meeting and your child will be more likely to receive an NDIS Plan that suits their funding needs.

While having clear goals in mind is very important, it’s equally important to have reports and documents detailing your child’s disability support needs to support the goals they would like to achieve. You can request these kinds of reports from your child’s current Service Providers. Another option is to consider a Functional Assessment which you can do before the Planning Meeting or request to have funding included in your child’s NDIS Plan for a Functional Assessment to be completed after the Planning Meeting.

In your Planning Meeting, your NDIA Planner or LAC may also ask:

  • How well your child usually manages their daily activities.
  • How much support your child needs for certain tasks.
  • What current informal (family and friends) and formal supports (community and service providers) your child currently accesses
  • How well this support works for your child and family.

Under the NDIS, you and your child will have greater choice and control in planning and coordinating disability services and how NDIS Plan funding is spent. You’ll need to consider what is important to you, your child and family to ensure you choose the disability services that are right for you.

Choice and Control for your child

It’s important to involve your child, when cognitively competent, in discussions that may affect their life. By helping your child participate in these discussions and decisions it can help them feel more confident to express their needs, ensure that they know what is happening and why and help them to make the right decisions for them now and in the future.

Some ways that you can involve your child in the planning process around disability services and the NDIS are:

  • Help them understand their role in planning by explaining the importance of their opinions and how that may shape and influence decisions about their life. It’s important to also talk with them about some of the decisions they may not be ready to make on their own and why.
  • Be open about how the planning process works and any obstacles or limits that may prevent the implementation of their ideas.
  • Keep your discussions relevant by asking questions and offering choices that are age appropriate in an informal, create or fun way.
  • Give your child some control over when and where you have a discussion and ask ways to help them feel more comfortable. Also, you could list some topics you’d like to talk about and let them choose which one they want to talk about first.
  • Consider different ways of communicating whether that be a brainstorming session, interactive websites, games or apps that help children express their thoughts and opinions, the use of videos, images, actions and storytelling.
  • Allow your child time to participate perhaps by talking with your child over more than one session, taking time to listen to what they would like to say and acknowledging the effort they’ve made.
  • Families of children with disabilities face many decisions about care, supports and treatment plans. Where possible, shared decision-making helps ensure disability services and programs reflect the needs of your child.

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