This is a revamped and expanded edition of a post I made about 4 months ago. It lists some of the help that’s available in W.A. for autism and disability in general. I hope they are of help to you or someone you know.
1. The first one is applying for the Centrelink Carers Allowance. If eligible your family will receive a fortnightly carers allowance of $114 or a Health Care Card (or both). The Health Care Card also entitles your family to other benefits. Below is the website.
2. Check out the Disability Services Commission (DSC) website. If you are eligible for services from DSC then you will have access to (and hopefully a home visit from) a Local Area Co-ordinator (LAC). An LAC can direct you to respite services, government grants (such as the Family Living Initiative) and other community based resources including support networks. There are other resources listed on the DSC website that may be useful for you too.
3. Taking my child out into the community has been an important part of our lives. Having a Companion Card (CC) means the carer of the child/person with the disability gets in for free (at participating organisations). One day my son and I managed about fifteen minutes at the zoo before we had to leave. I was so grateful I had not paid full adult admission for that visit! The places I use my card include Sci-tech, Caversham Wildlife Park, AQUA, and the movies. Even if you live outside the metro area this card can be useful, as the CC organisation can contact businesses on your behalf to request their involvement in the program. Also it never hurts to ask-sometimes I have asked businesses if they will accept the Card even if they are not officially part of the program and a surprising number have agreed. My best ‘find’ to date is Skywest Airlines who gave me a very nice discount on a regional flight. This card is not just for older children and adults, younger children are also eligible to apply.
4. Another helpful benefit is the rebate available on your Synergy account. This comes via any member of your household having a Centrelink Health Care Card (including your child). You need to ask (maybe even more than once!). The new name for this rebate is the ‘Cost of Living Assistance Payments.’ As Synergy has recently started to cross-check their information with Centrelink, you will need to ensure Centrelink has all of your correct information otherwise you may cease to receive your rebate due to something as minor as a spelling mistake. Check your Synergy bill regularly to ensure the rebate features on your account. For a full list of all available government (and other) concessions in WA see the link below.
5. If you want to meet people who are on a similar journey to yourself and your family then you could visit the Kalparrin drop in centre at PMH or check out their informative website. Carers WA also offers support and affordable counselling (call 1300 227 377). Another support in W.A. (that is aligned with Kalparrin) is the Facebook group ‘WA Special Families’. Membership to the group is by invitation and by being a parent/carer of a child with special needs. The group has over 1,000 members and means an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience is available to you right at your fingertips.
6. The ‘Raising Children Network’ is an Australia wide parenting website. The two links below may be useful. The autism link also has a comprehensive guide to ‘Autism Therapies’. It includes a brief description of the therapy, if the therapy has been researched, the cost and hours recommended. Therapy Focus also has a website with a lot of useful links. I have included a link from this website that can help families with Special Needs find everything from Libraries to Respite agencies to Legal Centres and everything in between.
7. Besides websites and word of mouth, another way to find an autism (or other disability) service provider is to call an Autism Association of W.A. Advisor. I believe that they are not meant to tell you who to go to, but they can email you a list of service providers in your area. Sometimes when the list is overwhelming, I choose three providers…give them a call and find which one I ‘click with’ best over the phone.
8. Make sure you access your entitlements through Medicare. It’s not a lot in my opinion but it’s better than nothing. Also what you are entitled to can be confusing and complicated, and it is all a moving target. Having an informed GP, and an informed paediatrician is extremely useful. It helps to be informed and keep up to date yourself. You can also access a number of Medicare resources without an ‘official’ diagnosis.
9. I have been able to access for my child discounted nappies and a discounted mattress protector through the program below.
10. Kids Sport Grant. If your child has a Health Care Card and are aged between ages 5 to 18 years of age you are eligible for a $200 grant towards sports club costs. This was the easiest grant I have ever received. No paperwork! I just rang my local council, told them the name of the Club I wanted my son to join and they did the rest for me, including contacting the Club and forwarding the funds directly to them. So find a sports club and ring your local council! (If your child is 4 turning 5 it is still worth asking for the Grant-I did and was accepted!).
Being informed about what my entitlements are and what I need has been the key for me. Then I can ask with confidence. The ‘system’ is somewhat of a maze and can be a frustrating and tiring place to navigate at the best of times…hopefully my suggestions help a little. If there are any other useful resources I may have missed please let me know. I am open to receiving and sharing suggestions!