Helping Children with Autism

Helping Children with Autism

What support is available?

The Australian Government has committed ongoing funding to address the need for services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their families and carers.

All initiatives include support for parents, families, carers and children from Indigenous backgrounds, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds and those living in rural and remote areas.

You can view questions and answers about the early intervention transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

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What does the package include?

The package includes:

  • Autism Advisors
  • Funding for Early Intervention services
  • PlayConnect Playgroups*
  • Early Days family workshops*
  • An ASD website

* Access to PlayConnect Playgroups and Early Days workshops is also available to children with ASD like symptoms.

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Information for Service Providers

Information about the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel application process is available elsewhere on this site.

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How do I access funding?

Following diagnosis, families contact an Autism Advisor in their state or territory who will provide information regarding eligibility, available funding and Early Intervention and other support services. The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) made new Medicare items for children aged under 13 years (for diagnosis/assessment and treatment planning).

To be eligible for the Early Intervention Service children must satisfy each of the eligibility criteria including:

  • Age
  • Diagnosis and
  • Residential eligibility.

Age

The eligibility criteria for children to access the Early Intervention funding is:

  • eligible children are those aged zero to six years who have been diagnosed in Australia with an ASD;
  • a child must have been seen by an Autism Advisor and deemed eligible to access the service before their sixth birthday; and
  • funding of up to $12,000 (maximum of $6,000 per financial year) can be accessed until the child’s seventh birthday.

Diagnosis

The Autism Advisor must sight a written conclusive diagnosis made by or through any one of the following:

  • the Medicare items through the HCWA strategy; or
  • a State/Territory Government or equivalent multidisciplinary assessment service; or
  • a private multidisciplinary team; or
  • Paediatrician; or
  • Psychiatrist.

Note: Medicare items are available under the HCWA package for diagnosis.

A multidisciplinary assessment team must consist of a psychologist and speech therapist and may also include an occupational therapist. An acceptable diagnosis is one of the following conditions as diagnosed by one of the professionals listed above:

  • Autism
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s Disorder/Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder; or
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Please note that having “similar characteristics” to autism is not a conclusive diagnosis.

Note: Rett’s Disorder was previously an eligible condition for HCWA funding but from 1 February 2014 has been included as an eligible condition under the Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) initiative. 

Children with Rett’s Disorder who are already accessing support through HCWA will continue to do so.  In addition, these children will be eligible to access physiotherapy as part of their HCWA support. 

Parents of children with Rett’s Disorder currently on HCWA should contact the Early Intervention Helpdesk on 1800 778 581 or asd.support@dss.gov.au if they would like to access physiotherapy for their child. 

The following link provides further information regarding changes to HCWA diagnostic criteria.

 An acceptable form for a diagnosis should include either:

  • letter-head paper, which includes the signature and position of diagnosing person; or
  • as an email with ‘approved for transmission’ in the email by the appropriate diagnosing person.

Residential eligibility

Residential eligibility for access to funding is the same as that for Carer Allowance (Child). That is, both the carer and the child being cared for must be:

  • an Australian resident - this means they are living in Australia on a permanent basis and they are either:
  • an Australian citizen or
  • the holder of a permanent resident visa or
  • the holder of a Special Category Visa: someone who arrived on a NZ passport and who is not affected by the changes to residence requirements, and has lived in Australia for long enough to satisfy qualifying residence periods or the newly arrived resident's waiting period (whichever applies to the payment being claimed).

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How can I contact an Autism Advisor or an Autism Association in my state or territory?

Autism advisors
State/
territory
Association Contact Number
NSW Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) 1300 978 611 or (02) 8977 8345
VIC AMAZE (Autism Victoria Inc) 1300 424 499 or (03) 9657 1608
WA Autism Association of Western Australia 1800 636 427 or (08) 9489 8900
QLD Autism Queensland Inc 1800 428 847 or (07) 3273 0000
ACT Autism Aspergers ACT Inc (02) 6176 0515
SA Autism SA 1300 288 476 or (08) 8379 6976
NT managed through Autism SA (08) 8947 4800 or Fax: (08) 8947 4811
TAS Autism Tasmania Inc 1300 288 476 or (03) 6278 9985

Early Intervention services

The Early Intervention funding under the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) package is aimed at providing increased access to Early Intervention for children aged up to six years with an ASD. The funding supports the delivery of multidisciplinary evidence based Early Intervention to facilitate improved cognitive, emotional and social development prior to a child starting school.

Eligible Interventions

Policy decisions relating to the Early Intervention funding are based on Roberts J.M.A and Prior M (2006) A review of the research to identify the most effective models of practice in early intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guidelines for Best Practice published by Prior and Roberts (2006) and updated A review of the research to identify the most effective models of practice in early intervention of children with autism spectrum disorders by Prior, M., Roberts, J. M.A., Rodger, S., Williams, K.& Sutherland, R.(2011) – the Executive Summary and full report of the 2011 Review are available below.

Based on the 2011 Review, an Early Interventions Table with a list of eligible and ineligible interventions has been developed. The document is not exhaustive and will be updated as additional information and research becomes available. Questions about the Table and eligible interventions can be directed to the Early Intervention Helpdesk on 1800 778 581 or email ASD.Support@dss.gov.au

Guidelines for Good Practice

Professors Margot Prior and Jacqueline Roberts have updated their Guidelines for Good Practice to provide advice for families and practitioners on what interventions and principles of practice work best for children with ASD.

View the 2006 Guidelines.

Supporting Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder – a guide for families and professionals

A guide to assist individuals with ASD has been developed by the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders (AABASD), with funding from the Department of Social Services.

The guide provides information for parents/carers and professionals on support and services available for individuals under 25 years of age with ASD.

It provides an understanding of available assistance, including information on assessment and diagnosis, funding packages, intervention and therapy, childcare, school, family support, and planning for the future.

Early Intervention Service Providers and Eligibility

Eligible families can access service providers from the panel of Early Intervention Service Providers. To apply to be on the panel of service providers see Applications for Membership of the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.

The Australian Government has revised the eligibility criteria for children accessing the Early Intervention funding via the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel. This change is effective from 19 October 2009.

The eligibility criterion for children accessing the Early Intervention funding through the HCWA Package is as follows:

  • To be eligible for the Early Intervention funding package a child must have been seen by an Autism Advisor and deemed eligible to access the program before their sixth birthday. The $12,000 in funding under the Early Intervention component can be used until the child’s seventh birthday to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year.
  • Up to 35 per cent of a child’s Early Intervention funding may be used to purchase resources, to a maximum of $2,100 per financial year, or $4,200 in total.  Resources must have been assessed by an Early Intervention Panel Provider as being integral to the child’s therapy.  The following link provides some questions and answers on purchasing resources with Early Intervention funding. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Website

The Raising Children Network (RCN) ASD website provides information, online resources and interactive functions to support parents, families, carers and professionals. The RCN is an Australian Government funded site providing information to parents of children from birth to school age. The RCN ASD website provides:

  • Impartial and evidence based information about ASDs and Early Intervention approaches;
  • Information on diagnosis and assessment;
  • A guide to navigating the service system;
  • Locations and contact details of the advisory services and approved Early Intervention services;
  • Links to other websites and information;
  • Film clips;
  • A 'My Neighbourhood' mapping tool that will identify services in the local neighbourhood; and
  • Parent forums.

PlayConnect Playgroups (Autism Specific Playgroups)

The PlayConnect Playgroups target children aged under seven years with ASD or ASD like symptoms. Children do not require a formal diagnosis of an ASD to attend a playgroup.

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres have been established in six locations. They provide early learning programs and specific support for children with ASDs. The centres are accredited long day child care centres and provide services based on best practice principles for working with children with ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Early Days Workshops

The Early Days Workshops are aimed at equipping parents and carers of children with ASDs or ASD like symptoms to more effectively manage the pressures they face in raising their children at home. These workshops are delivered locally in each state and territory, based on demand.

What support is there for those families who find it difficult to access Early Intervention services?

Families who reside in an outer regional or remote area may be eligible for a one-off payment of $2,000 per eligible child to cover the additional expenses associated with accessing early intervention services. Eligibility for this payment is based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia + (ARIA+) classification.

In exceptional circumstances, families who experience significant and multiple barriers to early intervention services, including location, financial and personal circumstances may also be eligible for the Access Payment. The information guide and application form providing further details of exceptional circumstances are also available from the Autism Advisor in your state or territory.

Support for older children with an ASD

Under this package the Australian Government Department of Education is delivering the Positive Partnerships initiative, which aims to build partnerships between schools and families to improve the educational outcomes of students with autism spectrum disorder. 

The Positive Partnerships programme supports professional development for teachers, school leaders and other school staff to build their understanding, skills and expertise in working with children with autism spectrum disorder.  Workshops and information sessions are also held for parents and carers of school-age students with autism, to assist them to work with their child’s teachers, school leaders and other staff.  A range of information, fact sheets including transition to school and from school, online learning modules, and workshop dates are available at: www.positivepartnerships.com.au.

The Department of Health has Medicare items available for children aged under 13 years (for diagnosis and treatment planning) and under 15 years (for treatment).

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More Information

Relevant website addresses:

Reference  number email
Playconnect Playgroups 1800 790 335 Playconnect Playgroups (info@playgroupaustralia.com.au)
Early Days Workshops   Refer to your local state/territory Autism Association
Raising Children Network N/A N/A
Department of Education 1300 363 079 (webenquiries@deewr.gov.au)
Department of Health 1800 020 103 DoH (mbsonline@health.gov.au)
DSS   DSS (ASD.Support@dss.gov.au)

For more information about the Helping Children with Autism package:

The ASD Support Helpdesk is open from 9:30am to 12:30pm and 2pm to 5pm (EDST) Monday to Friday.

To access a 1800 DSS number:

  • TTY users - phone 1800 555 677 then ask for the 1800 toll-free number you wish to contact
  • Speak and Listen (speech-to-speech relay) users - phone 1800 555 727 then ask for the 1800 toll-free number you wish to contact
  • Internet relay users - visit the National Relay Service website and ask for the 1800 toll-free number you wish to contact.

For more information visit the National Relay Service website.

Translating and interpreting service

If you do not speak English well and you wish to speak to a counsellor, call the Translating and Interpreting Service 13 14 50 and ask them to contact the Helpline for you.

  • Chinese
  • Croatian
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Macedonian
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Evaluations of the HCWA Package

The ARTD evaluation of the Helping Children with Autism Package found it has had a positive impact on children with autism and their families by increasing access to early intervention services, and supporting families to better understand autism and the services available to them.

The evaluation also recommended changes to the Helping Children with Autism package to improve outcomes for children with autism and their families.

In response, the Government has modified the package by changing operational guidelines, improving communication between stakeholders, and funding resources, such as teleconferencing facilities, and parent education via forums and a USB device to improve access to early intervention services by those living in rural and remote parts of Australia.

A summary of the Evaluation recommendations, the Government response and existing and proposed actions is also available.

The Program Guidelines, Parts A, B and C provide information about the program management, application processes and delivery principles for Early Intervention Services for Children with Disability, which include the components of the Helping Children with Autism package.

Content Updated: 9 April 2014