The Helping Children with Autism package provides assistance to families to access services and support for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The package delivered by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) provides:
- increased access to early intervention services for children aged 0-7 years
- education and support for families and carers of children with ASD.
There is also support for families, carers and children from indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those from rural and remote areas.
On this page, you can find information about the following components of the HCWA package:
Under the early intervention component of the package, all eligible children up to the age of seven years will have access to early intervention funding of up to $12 000 (up to $6000 per financial year). Eligibility is determined by an autism advisor on a case-by-case basis using nationally consistent criteria. Eligible children need to have been diagnosed and registered with an autism advisor before their sixth birthday to receive funding.
Families of eligible children can choose how they spread their funding as long as they spend no more than $6,000 in any financial year with access to funding expiring on their child’s seventh birthday.
Families can choose the early intervention service that best suits their child from the FaHCSIA Early Intervention Service Provider Panel. FaHCSIA reimburses service providers on behalf of families for services delivered. The panel is made up of providers delivering evidence-based multidisciplinary interventions.
A national program of 32 full-time equivalent autism advisors is available across Australia. The autism advisor program is provided by the Autism Associations in every state. Advisors assist families and carers of children who are diagnosed with an ASD by providing advice and information about the most appropriate early intervention services. The advisors provide a link between the clinical diagnosis and access to early intervention programs and support services. They also assist eligible families to access the Australian Government funding for early intervention services and grants to support families from rural and remote areas.
To access the early intervention funding of the package, families must have an acceptable diagnosis. An acceptable diagnosis will be consistent with one of the following listed disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) IV under Pervasive Developmental Disorders:
- Autistic disorder
- Asperger’s disorder
- Rett’s disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
The diagnosis of ASD must have been made under the Medicare diagnosis items or by a state or territory government assessment service or by a private paediatrician or psychiatrist. The diagnosis can be made before parents contact the autism advisors.
Families living in rural and remote areas or experiencing exceptional circumstances may also be able to access an additional $2,000 payment. This payment is made through the Autism Advisor and is in addition to the $12,000 funding package. The additional funding gives families’ options for accessing early intervention services as well as training, respite, accommodation, and travel to and from support.
Other FAHCSIA components of HCWA package
Early Days workshops
The Early Days program provides workshops for parents of children aged six years and under who are on the autism spectrum or who are undergoing assessment. The workshops provide information about ASD, practical ideas and hands-on strategies for dealing with issues such as behaviour, development and more. Online workshops are also available.
You can find out more about the Early Days program and face-to-face workshops from your state autism association.
PlayConnect playgroups offer play-based learning for children aged 0-6 with ASD or ASD-like symptoms, as well as social support networks for families. Playgroup facilitators can also help families connect to resources in their local area. Your child doesn’t need a formal ASD diagnosis to attend.
A new computer-based resource is available for families with a young child with ASD who are geographically isolated or unable to attend a PlayConnect playgroup. “Nurturing children with Autism" features more than 70 play activities, animations, instructional video clips, and incorporates links to key ASD and community support services available throughout Australia. It also includes a wall planner that can be customised and reused, and downloadable information sheets for all subject areas within the resource. Interested families and organisations can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As part of the package, FaHCSIA has supported the Raising Children Network to develop a Children with Autism section on this site, raisingchildren.net.au. This provides information, online resources and interactive tools to support parents, carers and professionals.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is delivering two initiatives in addition to the HCWA package.
This program helps improve the educational outcomes for school-aged children with ASD through:
- professional development for teachers and other school staff to support school students with ASD to achieve better educational outcomes
- workshops and information sessions for parents and carers of school students with ASD, including online access.
For more information, visit Positive Partnerships and register to use the online learning portal for parents and teachers.
Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres
The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres provide early learning programs and specific support for children with ASD. The centres are accredited long-day child care centres and provide services based on best practice principles for working with children with ASD. Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres are currently available in the following locations: South Western Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, North West Tasmania, Melbourne and Perth.
The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) introduced new Medicare items. These new items are for:
- paediatricians and psychiatrists to diagnose and develop a treatment and management plan for a child aged under 13 years on referral from a general practitioner
- audiologists, occupational therapists, optometrists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, psychologists and speech pathologists to provide up to four services in total per child per lifetime, to collaborate with the paediatrician or psychiatrist on the diagnosis, where required. These services must be provided before the child’s 13th birthday
- audiologists, occupational therapists, optometrists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, psychologists and speech pathologists to provide up to 20 early intervention treatment services in total per child per lifetime following a diagnosis of autism/PDD for the child, and consistent with the treatment and management plan prepared by the referring practitioner. These services must be provided before the child’s 15th birthday, provided an autism/PDD treatment and management plan was in place before the child’s 13th birthday.
Further information is available on the Department of Health and Ageing website.
If you would like more information about the Helping Children with Autism package, call the Helping Children with Autism Inquiry Line on 1800 778 581.
If you have a hearing or speech impairment, you can use the National Relay Service to contact any of FaHCSIA’s listed phone numbers.
The Australian Government commissioned an external organisation – ARTD Consultants – to evaluate some components of the Helping Children with Autism package. The evaluation aimed to inform government about how certain aspects of the HCWA package have been received by families and professionals. If you would like further information about this external evaluation visit www.fahcsia.gov.au/autism.