Speech Pathology and the NDIS: Early Childhood Approach
For many parents, accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides vital access to funding and support for their child. However, the process can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Here we cover some of the key steps in the NDIS pathway to help you navigate your way through the system.
What is the Early Childhood Approach?
The Early Childhood Approach is a part of the NDIS that is specifically designed for children under 7. It operates differently to the rest of the NDIS.
The Early Childhood Approach is based on best practice in early childhood intervention. Following these best practice principles helps to build the capacity of the child and their family, as well as supporting the child’s inclusion in their community and everyday settings.
Is my child eligible to access the NDIS?
This depends on the age of your child and whether or not they have a recognised disability diagnosis. If your child is over 6, they will need an official diagnosis to gain access to the scheme. If your child is under 6, they may be able to gain access to the NDIS without an official diagnosis. This is one of the key differences (and benefits!) of the Early Childhood Approach.
Access with a recognised diagnosis:
If a child has a diagnosis that meets the NDIS criteria (i.e., a permanent and significant disability), they are likely to gain automatic access to the NDIS. Parents will still need to make an application, however the main document used to establish their eligibility will be a letter of diagnosis from a recognised health professional.
Access without a recognised diagnosis:
Children under the age of 6 are able to access the NDIS with a developmental delay, even though this is not an official diagnosis. Children with a developmental delay are not developing at the same rate as their peers and may find it harder to do everyday activities. These children often need a lot of extra help to do age-appropriate tasks.
When a child is accessing the scheme as a result of developmental delay, their parents have a meeting with an Early Childhood Coordinator. The Coordinator will talk with the parents about their child and any concerns they have with their abilities in the areas of cognitive(thinking)/play skills, language and communication, self-care skills, emotional development and physical development. The Coordinator will observe the child in spaces where they spend a lot of their time such as at home, at kindergarten or at a childcare centre. Based on this information, the Coordinator will determine whether there is evidence of a developmental delay and if it is appropriate to put forward an access request to the NDIA.
What if my child has already turned 6?
If your child is already 6 years of age, they are unable to access the NDIS under developmental delay. They will need to have a recognised permanent and significant disability in order to gain access.
How do I access the NDIS?
Once you have determined that your child may be eligible to access the NDIS, you can call the NDIS on 1800 800 110 to be directed to an Early Childhood Partner. An Early Childhood Partner is a local organisation that helps the NDIS deliver the Early Childhood Approach in that particular area. You can also find and contact your local Early Childhood Partner directly by searching here.
Once you have spoken to your Early Childhood Partner, you will be placed on a waitlist for an ‘Initial Meeting’ with an Early Childhood Coordinator. You will be contacted by someone from the intake team who will schedule your appointment with the Coordinator as soon as they have the capacity to see you.
Your Early Childhood Coordinator will then be your contact person for all processes to do with accessing the NDIS. This will include an Initial Meeting, a Planning Meeting, and Approval and Implementation of your plan. They will be able to answer all of your questions and will have the most up-to-date and accurate information.
If you would like to read more about Early Childhood Partners and what they do, click here.
Am I eligible for NDIS funding for Speech Pathology?
When your child becomes a participant of the NDIS and has been granted access, you will write a plan with your Early Childhood Coordinator. This plan will contain the supports your child needs to work toward their NDIS goals. Your child will receive two budgets: a ‘Capacity Building’ and a ‘Core’ Budget. Speech Pathology services come out of the Capacity Building budget. This is the budget that pays for Allied Health Services such as Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Psychology and Physiotherapy. The amount of funding you receive will determine how frequently you can access Allied Health Supports.
Let’s look at an example:
- If your child receives a Capacity Building budget of $15,519.20 in their 12-month plan, you will need to think about how you would like to spend this in order to best support them.
- You will first need to work out how many hours of support they have available to them, by dividing the total budget by the NDIS hourly rate for Allied Health, which is $193.99. We can now see that your child has 80 total hours available for Allied Health services.
- You would like your child to see a Speech Pathologist. This means you could see your Speech Pathologist once a week for the whole year, as well as allow a few hours for the Speech Pathologist to write the necessary reports. This will utilise approximately 55 hours of your child’s funding in total, still leaving enough for them to see other Allied Health Professionals too, such as an Occupational Therapist.
The Core budget usually has a small amount of funds in the Consumables section. This is for low-cost low-risk assistive technology. This may be used to purchase items to assist with therapy, such as picture cards to help a child learn new words or a new grip for their pencil so that it is easier for them to hold.
I’ve got my NDIS plan. Now what?
Once you have received your plan, you have the choice and control to use the funds however it will benefit you the most. The way your funds are managed (Self-Managed, Plan Managed or Agency Managed) will determine the way you can access the services and supports you need.
If you are Self-Managed or Plan Managed, you are able to access registered and non-registered NDIS providers. This gives you greater choice about which qualified clinicians you would like to see. You may also have other supports in your plan such as Support Coordination, in-home support, assistive technology and equipment budget and consumables to purchase low-cost items to help with your goals. If you have any questions about this, it is best to ask your assigned Early Childhood Coordinator.
What do I have to do for my plan review?
- Prepare your reports – A few months before your child’s plan is going to expire, you are required to ask for progress reports from the services and supports you have been accessing with NDIS funds. Allied Health Clinicians will be aware of the format and what needs to be included in the report. The report will outline the progress your child has made, how they have worked towards their NDIS goals and recommendations for their next plan. It is important that you ask for these reports prior to your child’s plan review appointment, as it can take clinicians a few weeks to prepare the report.
- Attend your plan review meeting – When your child’s plan is due to expire, you will be contacted by their Early Childhood Partner to book a ‘Plan Review Meeting’. In this meeting, the Early Childhood Coordinator will discuss with you what your child can now do, how they have been working towards their goals and if there are any goals you would like to change, remove or add. The Early Childhood Coordinator will ask you to send your child’s progress reports through to them prior to the meeting to ensure they have an understanding of your child’s progress, capacity and what may need to be included in their next plan.
- Start your new plan – Once the meeting is completed, the Coordinator will build your child’s new NDIS plan and it will be submitted to the NDIA. The NDIA will review the plan and either approve the supports that have been requested by the Coordinator or modify the plan to fit within the criteria. The criteria is that the requested supports must be deemed ‘reasonable and necessary for that particular child. You will then receive your child’s new plan and it is ready to be utilised.
What happens if I do not receive the funding or support I need to achieve my goals?
When you receive your child’s next NDIS plan, it sometimes won’t include all the supports you were expecting or feel your child needs to have to reach their goals. The best way to gain insight into why this is the case is to speak with your Early Childhood Coordinator. Your Coordinator can talk you through why your child received reduced, different or no funding for certain supports in that area of their plan. If you are still not happy with the plan, you can request a plan review. This is facilitated by your Early Childhood Coordinator.
What happens if my plan expires prior to receiving my new plan?
Sometimes the NDIA is backlogged with approving plans. If your child’s plan expires prior to the new plan being approved, their current plan will go into ‘auto-extension’. Auto-extension means that your child’s current plan will be duplicated and rolled over until the new plan is approved. This means that, even if you had utilised all of your child’s allocated funds on the current plan, you will be able to continue to access funds from the day after expiry with no interruption to their support.
It is important to note that, once your new plan is approved, all unused auto-extension funds will be overwritten and your new plan will start fresh.
What happens when my child turns 7?
Turning 7 with a recognised diagnosis:
If your child is a participant of the NDIS, has an active NDIS plan and has a recognised diagnosis when they turn 7, they will be able to finish their current plan under the Early Childhood Approach. The plan will continue until its current expiry date. When the plan is coming up for review, a transition will occur from the Early Childhood Coordinator to the Local Area Coordinator (LAC). The Early Childhood Coordinator will be aware that the child is about to turn 7 and will provide a handover to the LAC. The LAC will then contact the participant/participant’s representative to talk about their first plan in the LAC space.
Turning 7 without a recognised diagnosis:
If your child is a participant of the NDIS and has an active NDIS plan but does not have a recognised diagnosis when they turn 7, they will still be able to finish their current plan under the Early Childhood Approach. The plan will simply continue until its current expiry date. However, when the plan comes up for review, the eligibility criteria will not be met without a recognised diagnosis. This is likely to be the child’s final NDIS plan and they will then be exited from the scheme.
NDIS. (2022a). The early childhood approach. [online]. NDIS. Available at https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/families-and-carers/early-childhood-approach
NDIS. (2022b). Developmental delay and the early childhood approach. [online]. NDIS. Available at https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/families-and-carers/early-childhood-approach/developmental-delay-and-early-childhood-approach
NDIS. (2022c). Offices and contacts in your area. [online]. NDIS. Available at https://www.ndis.gov.au/contact/locations
NDIS. (2022d). Connecting with an early childhood partner. [online]. NDIS. Available at https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/families-and-carers/early-childhood-approach/connecting-early-childhood-partner