Have you noticed that your child is behind in developmental milestones?
Do they seem to be delayed socially in comparison to their peers?
Has your child’s daycare teacher raised some ‘red flags’ regarding your child’s behaviour?
Whatever the reasoning is that has brought you to this blog we are going to run through the steps needed to ensure your child is able to access Early Intervention support.
Discovering that your child needs support in their development can be quite the overwhelming and daunting thought. Nobody wants to see their child struggle or fall behind so it's normal to feel a range of emotions about this. The silver lining however is that finding out sooner rather than later means that you can make the most of the early intervention years.
How do you access support for your child?
If your child is under the age of 7 and they have a delay, then they will fall under the NDIS Early Childhood Intervention Approach. Children under the age of 7 do not need a formal diagnosis to receive early intervention support from the NDIS.
The first step is to call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Essentially the NDIA employs people to help you navigate and understand the NDIS and are responsible for administering NDIS funding. They are the link between families and services and help families access early intervention and to apply for NDIS funding.
Perhaps you have already been referred to the NDIA or an Early Childhood planner by your local GP, Paediatrician, family health nurse or your child’s preschool educator.
The next step from here is to have a meeting with your Early Childhood Planner to discuss your child’s and your family’s needs and goals. Depending on your child’s needs, the early childhood planner might:
- give you information about mainstream supports and services for your child. Such as education, medication, and community services.
- connect you and your child with supports in your area, like community health services, playgroups, or peer support groups
- provide short-term early intervention supports that will assist your child to try to reach their goals
- help you to request access to the NDIS if your child needs longer-term support
- coordinate a combination of the options above.
You don’t have to pay to meet with the early childhood planner, or for the information, referrals or early intervention support the early childhood partner provides. It is all a part of the NDIS Early Childhood Intervention Approach. It's vitally important to seek advice as soon as possible if you are concerned about your child’s development.
When my daughter was born prematurely at 29weeks a routine brain scan showed that she has damage to her brain, so we were lucky in a sense that we already had a pediatrician and were booked in for 6 monthly visits. It was at her second appointment with him that he confirmed that she had a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. She was 7 months old. This was 7 years ago so the process was slightly different back then as the NDIS was yet to be rolled out in my area. But if our diagnosis journey was happening now this is when we would be referred by our paediatrician to a local early childhood planner. From here we would be given information and support as to where to go from there.
When will my child need to transfer to a NDIS plan?
Children that are over 7 will no longer fall under the Early Childhood Intervention Approach. When delays are minor, adequate Early Intervention supports may assist the child to reach their goals and catch up to their peers. When a delay is more prominent by age 7 it might indicate that there is an intellectual disability or other contributing elements which may confirm a diagnosis of some sort. This of course will require further assessments.
If your child happens to have longer-term support needs, your early childhood planner can help you to request NDIS access. Typically, by age 7 a diagnosis will already be confirmed and mean that the child is eligible for NDIS funding.
While getting a diagnosis can be confronting for parents and quite the overwhelming process, it can be the missing piece needed to help you adequately understand your child’s development and behaviour. It can provide clarity and understanding and give your child the opportunity to have access to the support that will allow them to thrive.
If your child becomes a NDIS participant, you will work with your Early Childcare Partner to write a NDIS plan that supports your child’s goals. It’s during this meeting where you will discuss all the developmental aspects that your child struggles with and what it might look like to help them overcome or work with these struggles. This plan will be submitted for approval.
Once your child’s NDIS plan is approved, your Early Childhood Planner will be able to explain how the plan works, what it entails, the support budget for your child and how to manage it. Funding allocated will allow you to access services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy, behaviour therapy, along with many other family and therapeutic supports.
Now that my daughter is over 7 years of age, we no longer have an early childhood planner. We now move to a local area coordinator also known as a LAC. Essentially, they have the same roles; in that they work with families to develop plans and how to implement and monitor them. Your LAC will be your main point of contact regarding all things NDIS for your child and your family.