How increasing involvement creates better outcomes for children
Finding the right care and support for a child with disability can be stressful and challenging.
These choices can provide your child with every opportunity to thrive and achieve their potential.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information available, and the huge task of making decisions on behalf of your child. While doing research and seeking advice is useful, it’s also important to spend time considering what’s right for your child and family.
Where possible, children and young people should be partners in making decisions about their care. Engaging children in the process can help both the child and family understand the issues affecting them.
Participation also helps build a child's capacity to make important decisions in the future. It builds confidence and supports the autonomy and wellbeing of your child.
This article looks at the disability services available to children and the role of the NDIS in funding these services. It concludes with tips to help you engage your child or young person in a developmentally appropriate way to make choices about their care.
What disability services are available to children?
Disability services include a range of specialist supports and resources for people with a disability and their families. These supports help children with disability and their families participate actively in the community and reach their full potential.
Your GP or health professional might refer you to a disability service provider, or you might prefer to search for local providers offering help with:
Early childhood intervention services, including therapies to develop your child’s motor, social, communication and behaviour skills to reduce the impact of the disability and the need for ongoing support.
Life skills development, including training your child or young person in financial management, use of public transport and general mobility, daily living skills, self-esteem, home and community safety, and the use of assistive technologies.
Multidisciplinary services, including speech and language pathology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, behaviour intervention and support, social work and psychology.
Daily living support, including personal care, domestic assistance and social and communication support to help your child undertake daily living activities.
Community access support, including group and one-on-one social support, companionship and recreational activities to build your child’s social independence.
Case management, including liaison with support providers, coordination of service delivery and skill building to help you and your child exercise choice, create a stable home environment and live as independently as possible.
Goods and equipment, including medical aids and equipment to help your child increase their mobility, communication, reading and independence in personal and health care.
Respite services, including in-home, host family, centre-based and vacation care to support your child and allow you to take a break.
Accessing disability services through the NDIS
Children with long-term needs may be able to access an NDIS plan. This plan takes a ‘big picture’ approach, aligning all of your child’s disability services and other supports with their goals or the goals you have for your child.
To access the NDIS, you must first prove your child or young person’s eligibility. You’ll then be contacted to schedule your NDIS planning meeting. During this meeting, you’ll discuss the goals your child wants to achieve as part of their NDIS plan. Goals may be short, medium or long-term, and broken down into the smaller steps needed to achieve them.
For more information about what support your child might be eligible for, see this introduction to Early Childhood Early Intervention services and the NDIS. For general information on the NDIS, see these common FAQs.
Other things you may talk about in the planning meeting include:
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’ll have greater choice and control in planning and coordinating disability services and how funding is spent. You need to consider what is important to you, your child and family to ensure you choose the disability services that are right for you.
Encouraging participation in NDIS planning
Every NDIS plan is individualised and should represent the unique needs and goals of a child or young person. It’s important that your child, when cognitively competent, is fully and directly involved in discussions that affect their life.
Here are some ways to help children and young people participate in planning their life and future:
Be clear with children about their role in planning. Explain the importance of their views and how they will influence decisions about their life. Discuss the choices that they may not be ready to make on their own yet.
Be open about obstacles and limits. Explain to your child how the planning process works and any limitations that may prevent implementation of their ideas.
Make discussions relevant to young people. Ask simple, age-appropriate questions your child can understand and relate to. Offer choices within the boundaries of what you consider to be appropriate. Keep conversations informal, creative and fun.
Give your child control over the discussion. Ask them where and when they would like to talk. Get them to suggest ways they’d feel more comfortable (such as providing food and drink they like, a safe and familiar setting or including certain people). Raise the topics you’d like to discuss and ask them to choose how they want to explore them.
Consider alternative methods of communication. Engage your child in a group brainstorming session with friends. Play interactive websites, games and apps to help children express their thoughts and opinions. Use videos, images, actions and storytelling to help explain complex information.
Give children sufficient time to participate. Talk to your child over several sessions rather than keeping to a tight timeframe. Make time to listen to what they have to say and acknowledge the effort they’ve made in considering an issue.
Collaborating is easy with First2Care
With the right tools, you can help your child choose their goals and aspirations, and the supports they need for the life they want.
First2Care is an app that helps children and young people build a profile of their life, goals and aspirations ready for their NDIS planning meeting. The app is collaborative, allowing you to invite those important to you to connect and participate in the planning process.
Using the pre-planning tool, you and your child can simply work through each section at your own pace. The tool uses easy to understand language, asking questions that help participants understand their needs and goals.
First2Care can also be used to coordinate and manage your child’s NDIS plan once it’s active. You can easily connect with service providers, roster supports, manage schedules and report on progress, all in the one place.
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. It’s also an opportunity for children and young people to have their say, build new skills and feel empowered by their ability to influence.
Over to you ...
Have you had success involving your child or young person in NDIS planning? Do you have any tips for opening up communication?
We’d love to know in the comments below.