Service providers for children with disability, ASD and other additional needs
Children with disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental delay or other additional needs need various kinds of support for their development. Support can include things like early intervention, community health services, playgroups and much more.
The people who provide this support are called disability service providers. If you have a child with disability, ASD or other additional needs, you need to choose the right disability service providers for your child. You might work with one or many service providers.
The best service providers for your child will be the ones who meet her specific needs.
If your child has only just been diagnosed with additional needs, our disability services guide can help you understand the system. And remember that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can help children with disability before and after diagnosis. You can phone the NDIS on 1800 800 110.
Choosing disability service providers for children
When you're choosing service providers, it's good to meet providers face to face. You can often get more information this way, plus a better sense of whether service professionals are really listening to you and trying to understand your needs and goals. It's OK to visit services more than once before choosing, or to ask to meet with several different professionals within the service.
You can work out which disability service providers meet your child's needs by thinking and asking about:
- service provision
- service standards and staff qualifications.
These are questions about how service providers can help you, what you can get from the providers, and when you can expect to get the help your child needs. Here are some questions you can ask:
- How will you work with me to support my child's development?
- How much flexibility is there? In other words, how much choice will I have about what to use within the service?
- Where will the service be provided - for example, via video conference, in my home, in a hospital, clinic, community centre, early learning centre or at school? And can I choose?
- What support can you give my child when she moves to kindergarten, child care or school? For example, will you come to kindergarten, child care or school meetings if I want you to?
- How will you support the mainstream or community activities that my child might be involved with - for example, playgroups or sports clubs?
- What can I do if I'm unhappy with the support you're providing for my child?
These are questions about the practical side of using service providers and whether services will suit your child and family. Here are some questions for you to think about:
- Can you and your child get to the service easily? For example, can you get there by public transport, or is there a car park nearby?
- When, how often and for how long will your child need the service?
- How long is each session likely to take?
- What are the service's operating hours?
- Is there a cost involved?
- Is there a waiting list? How long will it take to get an appointment?
Service standards and staff qualifications
These are questions about the quality of service providers. Here are some questions you can ask:
- What qualifications and experience do the professionals in your organisation have? Does the service have an accreditation system?
- Is the service government funded, or connected with a university or hospital?
- Do you follow the Early Childhood Intervention Australia National Guidelines: Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention or the National Standards for Disability Services?
- What are your service's mission, vision and values?
- How long has your service been operating?
If you're looking into disability professionals, associations like the Australian Psychological Society or Speech Pathology Australia have lists of members and their areas of expertise. And all health professionals must be registered with the Australian Government to practise. You can check a professional's details by visiting the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, or find out more about accreditation by visiting Allied Health Professions Australia.
Deciding on disability service providers for your child
Once you've visited or spoken to the disability service providers you're considering, you could draw up a list of pros and cons to help you decide which service providers might suit your child best.
If you're still not sure after comparing the pros and cons, it's OK to:
- go back to service providers and ask more questions
- ask other professionals what they think might be best for your child
- ask other parents about their experiences.
Sometimes you might decide on a service provider and get started, but then you realise that the service provider isn't right for you after all. That's OK - you can change providers.
Information overload can easily happen, so it's important to organise your information. You can organise and store information in many ways - computer files, written journals or diaries, desktop-type files, shoeboxes and so on.