When we received L's provisional diagnosis of autism, our paediatrician advised us to apply to access the NDIS to help fund L's therapy costs as we were living in a NDIS trial site.
And I am glad that we followed his advice.
There are other funding options available, but without the NDIS we would not have been able to afford the level of therapy that L participates in.
O has recently been accepted as a participant in the NDIS as well which will assist us in providing the therapy that she requires.
Prior to applying to the NDIS to access the scheme, we knew very little about the scheme - in fact, I'd heard about the scheme but didn't know what the scheme was. The first time that we applied to access the scheme, it was all very confusing. When we applied for O to enter the scheme we were much more prepared and we've received a much better outcome for O's first plan, than we did for L's first plan.
Now that the NDIS is rolling out across more areas of Australia, I thought that I would write a post on the scheme - all the important bits that you need to know prior to applying to enter the scheme. I'm writing this piece from the point of view that it is your child accessing the scheme but keep in mind that individuals of all ages can apply to access the scheme.
So what is the NDIS?
NDIS stands for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, at times it is also known as the NDIA, the National Disability Insurance Agency.
The NDIS is the new way of providing support for Australians with a disability. Once the scheme has rolled out nation wide it will provide Australians, who are under the age of 65 with a permanent and significant disability, with the reasonable and necessary supports that they require to live an ordinary life.
The NDIS takes a lifetime approach in supplying funding - they invest in people with a disability early in life so that there will be a significant improvement later in their life. The aim of the NDIS is to build participants skills and capability so that they can participate in the community and gain employment.
The NDIS has not yet rolled out nation wide and the way the scheme operates differs from state to state.
One thing to remember about the NDIS is that they are an insurance agency. Value for money, reasonable and necessary, and all the other insurance related terms!!
How do you access the NDIS?
The very first step in accessing the NDIS is to determine whether or not your child is eligible to access the scheme. There are several criteria that you must satisfy to be able to access the scheme, these are listed on their website. I didn't realise but you are able to apply to access the NDIS 6 months prior to the scheme rolling out in your area. This will be helpful for people who already have a diagnosis and are waiting for the roll out to occur in their area.
If you have determined that your child may be eligible to access the scheme, the next step is that you must complete an access request form. In this form you are able to give a brief run down of your child's disability. The details that you include on this form will assist the NDIS to determine whether or not your child will be accepted into the scheme.
On both occasions that we completed these forms, I included ALL of L and O's diagnostic reports with their respective applications. You're only able to include limited information on the form itself, so submitting all of the diagnostic reports means that the NDIS is able to view medical professional information about your child's condition prior to making a decision as to your eligibility.
Once accepted, your child becomes a participant in the scheme and you become their advocate!
You'll be assigned a NDIS planner - this is the person who will be responsible for setting your child's plan, setting your child's goals for the next twelve months and deciding what level of funding your child will be given.
During the initial planning meeting you will be asked a series of questions about your child and you will have the opportunity to further expand on the information that you included on the access form.
The only advice that I can offer is to answer the questions honestly. Some of the questions are based on your child's current ability or skill level to complete particular skills. When answering these questions, if your child has done a skill once and has never attempted or successfully completed the skill again, this really doesn't count as achieving the skill.
Don't be embarrassed to admit to your planner that your child is unable to complete a skill on their own - that is why your child needs the funding. All of this information assists your planner to determine the level of funding that will be allocated.
During the planning meeting, be prepared to educate your planner, in the nicest way possible, about your child's disability. We are now onto L's third plan, and not once have any of our planners had an extensive knowledge of autism and how it can affect an individual.
You are given the option of self managing the funds allocated to your child or the funds can be provider managed. Keep in mind that if you chose to self manage the funds, you need to keep track of what funds are spent, submit receipts to the NDIS and the NDIS recommends that the funds are kept in a separate bank account to what you use on an every day basis.
Prior to L's initial planning meeting, we made contact with the Autism Association of WA to obtain advice on what information we needed to take with us to the meeting, what information we should include in L's plan and what level of funding we needed to request from the NDIS.
You have no control what so ever over the level of funding that is provided to your child, you can however influence the funding that may be provided with the information that you submit in your plan.
You will be asked what goals you would like to set for your child to achieve over the next twelve months. From the NDIS' perspective these goals must be worded in a particular way - the goals in both O and L's current plans are very vague sounding. Depending on therapy your child will be attending, your child's therapy goals will be set based on the NDIS goals.
What won't the NDIS fund?
There is an entire list on the NDIS as to what they will fund so it is easier to list what they will not fund!
The NDIS will not fund anything that is provided through the public system - education, health etc.
The NDIS will not fund anything that is considered to be a daily living expense - medication, trampolines, and training among other things.
The NDIS will not fund anything that is NOT related to a participants disability.
Finding a Provider.
Once your child has been accepted into the NDIS, you then have the task of determining which provider or providers that you want to make contact with.
The main point to keep in mind is that which ever provider you chose to go with for therapy or other services, they must be registered with the NDIS. If they are not registered, I believe there is an option for them to apply to become a registered provider, I'm just not sure how this is achieved. However, most providers are registered with the scheme.
The NDIS has assisted in making a huge impact on L's development over the last 18 months or so. The funding has assisted L on his autism journey and it has certainly alleviated some of the stress that we found ourselves under.
We know that in the future L may not need the current level of funding that he currently receives, but it is peace of mind knowing that the funding will always be there if he needs it.
It has been a rough ride to get to where we now are, but I would honestly recommend the scheme to other families.
And no we don't get any extra funding for writing this piece. This is information that I would have loved to know prior to entering the scheme with L and now with O!