Support and services
Professional support service providers
After seeking a diagnosis through a primary healthcare provider, you may be advised to enlist the help of an allied health professional, or professional support service provider to help you, or your loved one, to access therapies, practices, and interventions that will assist you with development. Find out more about the many services providers that will support you through this process.
Support in early childhood
The experiences and relationships babies and young children develop in early childhood, as well as the community and environments they interact with, mould and shape their development. This is true for all children.
If you’re a parent or carer whose child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be emotional coming to terms with your child’s diagnosis, and you may feel anxious about their development.
Keep in mind that the brain continues to develop throughout a person’s lifetime, not just in their early years. With support, functional skills across a range of areas can be developed.
Also, remember that you’re not alone. There is a great deal of support – formal and informal – to help you navigate this period in yours and your child’s lives.
For autistic individuals to succeed in this world, they need to find their strengths and the people that will help them get to their hopes and dreams…a supportive environment where they can learn from their mistakes is what we as a society needs to create for them.
If your child is displaying signs or characteristics of autism, and you have sought a diagnosis, early intervention support can be incredibly beneficial for their development.
Early intervention means utilising therapies, practices and interventions or services that will help your child’s development. This intervention will assist your child in developing skills and strategies to support in everyday life. State and territory governments provide early childhood intervention services and early childhood education and care services.
In addition to early intervention services, many parents find it beneficial to join a support group. Support groups can be a helpful way to share experiences and make friends, as well as discuss the stresses and successes of day-to-day life with a young child on the autism spectrum.
Playconnect Playgroups and Supported Playgroups offer babies, toddlers and young children with autism a wide variety of early learning experiences – as do childcare and kindergarten and Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres.
Your local state or territory autism association will be able to let you know about the range of recreation activities on offer for your child with autism.
Many children on the autism spectrum will need support with emotional regulation. Assisting children to understand and regulate their emotions can be developed with the right support.
Being a parent or carer of a young child on the autism spectrum can be demanding. Short term accommodation services and family advocacy services can provide support when you need to take a break or engage someone to help you advocate for your child’s, or your family’s rights.
Support in school years
For families who have a child on the autism spectrum starting school can be a big milestone for all involved.
Aside from the usual mixed emotions about your child heading off to ‘big school’, it’s really important that you’re prepared for what can be a demanding time – this can be made easier through a range of supports and services on offer.
With children and young people on the autism spectrum being four times more likely to require additional learning and support services than their peers, your state or territory education system may be able to offer a range of supports for your child transitioning into, or attending school.
This could involve completing a range of assessments or developing support plans, or specific supports and services such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, educational consultancy with individual support staff.
Sometimes it can be challenging finding a school, or working with a school, to ensure your child’s individual needs are best met. If this is the case, you might like to turn to educational advocacy for extra support and counsel.
Outside the classroom, recreation and extra-curricular activities are important for children, as they can provide your child with opportunities to practice social skills, physical aptitude and boost motivation, often leading to increased self-confidence.
Starting school, transitioning to high school, changes in routine and coping with day-to-day school life may have an impact on your child’s mental health. Children and teenagers on the autism spectrum often have higher rates of anxiety than other children, so we’ve provided information about managing mental health.
As a parent or carer of a child on the autism spectrum you’ll probably find the support provided by parent groups – either specifically for parents of children with additional needs, or parent groups at your child’s school – a great way to meet new people and share experiences.
Short term accommodation (respite) may also be a support for both you and your child at this time too. Whether for one day, one night or several weeks, supported care can provide a break in routine for your child, as well as a chance for you to take a break too.
Some services available to children with disabilities, and their families can be funded through the NDIS or your state or territory government.
Support for adults
Whether you were diagnosed as a child or later in life, some adults will require support throughout their lifetime, whilst others live highly independent lives.
As with all people, adults on the autism spectrum need a network of people to enrich their lives and to provide emotional support. What this looks and feels like, will vary from one individual to another.
The federal, state and territory governments, as well as your local autism association may be able to provide a variety of support services to help you navigate life – from accommodation and housing, to finding and keeping a job, and social and community participation.
Financial and funding support for people with autism
The Australian Government provides a range of financial support for children, teenagers and adults on the autism spectrum, and their carers.
This financial support may be accessed in the diagnosis stage, and once a diagnosis has been confirmed.
The primary source of financial support for people with a disability is the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
The NDIA manages the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which may be able to help you access services and support in your community. It also provides funding for support like early intervention therapies, or one-off items like wheelchairs or assistive technologies depending on the participant’s NDIS Plan, which is based on the individual’s needs.
There are also various Medicare and Centrelink initiatives that can provide financial support.
To access financial support, you will have to apply for funding – they will not be granted to you automatically when you or your child is diagnosed.
Some funding schemes will only require you to provide proof of diagnosis, whilst others will require you to explain why you or your child needs support.
Eligibility requirements for supports vary, so you or your child might qualify for support under one scheme, but not another. Some funding schemes (or services) have limited funding, so you might be put on a waiting list.
Community support for people with autism
There is a range of support and services available in the community to assist people on the autism spectrum of all ages, their carers, families and supporters.
The Autism Friendly Charter assists business, organisations and venues to build capacity, inclusivity, understanding and awareness of autism to ensure that people on the autism spectrum, their families and supporters feel welcome, included and able to participate in the community.
It’s important that individuals and their carers understand their rights and responsibilities as members of the community, which are protected under a number of pieces of legislation at the national and state level.
From living with family, to supported group accommodation or supported independent accommodation, there are a range of accommodation and housing options for people with a disability in the community.
In the community, short term accommodation – delivered by specialist support services, informally by family and friends, or through community recreation activities – provides a welcome break for many carers.