Confusion about requirements for obtaining assistive technology funding can leave participants without supports that could greatly enhance safety, independence and participation and tangibly help to meet their NDIS goals. Our NDIS-registered occupational therapists share their insights into getting the right support for yourself or a participant in your care.
Whether you work with NDIS participants or are a parent or carer, you’d be all too aware of how greatly assistive technology can impact a person with disability. From devices that assist with tasks such as getting out of bed or showering to mobility devices that promote participation in activities outside the home and communication devices enabling interaction and engagement in family, social, leisure, education and work life, AT tailored to a person’s individual needs can fundamentally enable advancement towards achieving a range of goals set out in an NDIS plan. However, when it comes to identifying quite what AT options best fit an individual’s needs and obtaining relevant funding, especially when equipment and devices span different categories and price levels, the process can seem like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Common questions include how AT can fit into a person’s NDIS budget and whether it can simply be purchased or requires recommendation by an occupational therapist. Our NDIS-registered occupational therapists are not only experts in assessment to determine which AT will provide maximum benefit, they’re also versed in criteria and processes for obtaining required funding and can help you or your participant to make the most of AT and realise their potential. Here are some of their insider tips.
AT in a nutshell
Assistive Technology (AT) under the NDIS refers to any piece of equipment, modification or item that makes a participant’s daily life easier – from modified kitchen utensils to a stairlift or an electric scooter. As with funding for other types of supports under NDIS, funding decisions for AT depend on an item being deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’ against a participant’s unique needs and goals.
OTs as AT specialists
An occupational therapist is an allied health professional with comprehensive knowledge and skills in assessment of capacities and in devising solutions to enhance these in the context of a person’s environment(s). As well as devising treatment interventions, they can identify areas that may be improved with certain devices or equipment and facilitate the process based on a participant’s NDIS plan – whether they have an active AT budget and need assistance to upgrade or change AT that is not fit for purpose or whether they require recommendations for consideration in an upcoming plan review. Other allied health professionals including speech pathologists and physiotherapists may also recommend AT.
When (and when you don’t) need an AT assessment
Whether or not you or your participant needs a report from an allied health professional to qualify for funding for AT depends on the category into which the AT falls. Broadly, AT falls into three cost categories, each with different requirements (AT is also differentiated by risk categories).
If relevant funding is included in a participant’s plan, low-cost and low-risk items can often be purchased without a report, although it’s best to check with a support coordinator or plan manager before going ahead with a purchase.
For AT costing between $1,500 and $15,000, a letter of support from an allied health professional is required, no matter whether the item is considered low or high risk. Guidelines can change, so check the NDIS website for current information.
High cost items are considered those costing $15,000 and over. Such items require completion of an AT Assessment Form by a relevant allied health professional and quotation of AT cost for consideration under the NDIS. This assessment conveys how this equipment will help and why the particular equipment recommended is the best choice. For instance, a higher priced item may be deemed appropriate where it could reduce a participant’s need for paid supports in future.
CASE STUDY: Life given a big lift by AT
A 41-year-old participant with cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder was experiencing left-sided weakness, which made it difficult for him to walk up and down the stairs to his bedroom. While his mother and main caregiver would provide physical assistance to help the participant to safely access the home’s upper level, his experience of falls in the home and prognosis of physical deterioration suggested that a home-based assessment could reveal solutions in the form of AT and/or modifications to enhance safety and daily living. Based on balance assessments and assessment of the home environment, our practitioners prescribed a stairlift, which has been used safely with no further falls. According to OT Yuho: “We were able to improve this participant’s independence in reaching his room and bathroom, improve home safety and contribute to the family’s greater health and wellbeing through reduced worry, stress and needs for assistance.”
Let us make NDIS referrals easier
Navigating NDIS categories and criteria can be complicated and time-consuming. Whether you’re a support coordinator or other referrer, parent or carer or participant, our dedicated community division can help make sense of requirements and processes for allied health services and AT, in turn helping participants to obtain tailored, multidisciplinary allied health care to help them to achieve their goals.
To refer a patient, client, participant or yourself, click below to complete a simple, online referral.