Autism is a developmental condition that can impact social interaction and impaired or unusual verbal and non-verbal communication. Occupational therapy assists those living with Autism with early diagnosis and appropriate evidence informed treatment.
Trained occupational therapists can also assist with modifying the environment to remove the obstacles or common ways of doing things that make tasks difficult for those living with Autism. OTs work with the child, parent, carer and/or teacher to develop a plan that includes goals and objectives for them to follow which is then monitored, reviewed and modified as the child progresses.
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A National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders
The National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders is the first, unified approach to the assessment and diagnosis of autism in Australia.
The Guideline provides health professionals with a nationally consistent, step-by-step process to follow. This process spans from the time of referral until assessment results are shared with individuals and caregivers, including suggestions to meet support needs.
For parents and caregivers of children undergoing an assessment, and adults, the Guideline will help you to understand this process and ensure you are receiving appropriate clinical care.
Helping Children with Autism program
The Australian Government’s Department of Health launched the ‘Helping Children with Autism program’ in July 2008 to support early diagnosis and treatment of children with autism or any other pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).
Medicare items are available for eligible occupational therapists to collaborate with referring consultant psychiatrists and consultant paediatricians in the diagnosis of, and/or the preparation of an ASD treatment and management plan for children aged under 13 years. Eligible children will be able to receive a finite number of services, with the referring practitioner having responsibility for how these services are allocated to allied health professionals.
Medicare items are available for eligible occupational therapists to provide ASD treatment services to children aged under 15 years (where the child has received a ASD treatment and management plan from a consultant psychiatrist or consultant paediatrician prior to their thirteenth birthday). Eligible children will be able to receive up to twenty (20) of these services, in total, with the referring practitioner again having responsibility for how these services are allocated to participating allied health professionals.
More detailed information for families and allied health professionals is available on the Department of Health website.
Obtaining a Medicare Provider Number
In order to provide treatment services through the ‘Helping Children with Autism program’ or ‘Better Start for Children with Disability’, Occupational therapists are required to have a Medicare Provider number.
To obtain a Medicare Provider number occupational therapists need to be registered for practice within Australia and demonstrate the skills and experience appropriate for provision of these services. To be eligible, occupational therapists must also be able to competently work with children with PDD, having the ability to competently provide services throughout the assessment, planning, organisation, implementation, evaluating, reporting and review phases of care.
Better Start for Children with Disability: Reporting Requirements
Upon completion of a course of treatment, a written report must be provided to the referring consultant psychiatrist or paediatrician by the occupational therapist. The report needs to include a concise summary and meet competency standards, and a written report must also be provided to the referring psychiatrist or paediatrician at the completion of any subsequent course(s) of treatment to the child. Detailed information regarding the Reporting process is available from the Australian Department of Human Services website.
Better Start for Children with Disability: Registration and Information Service
Funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, ‘Better Start for Children with Disability’ provides access to early intervention services and up to $12,000 in early intervention funding for eligible children aged 0-6 years.
inclusionED is an Autism CRC’s online professional learning community. inclusionED provides free evidence-based and research-informed teaching practices and resources for use in mainstream classrooms in supporting all learners, including those with learning difficulties or neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism. These resources are intended to act as a conduit for support between school and therapy environments.
Topics addressed include: transition planning; home-school communication; classroom acoustics; work systems; visual schedules; task analysis; work experience; fostering inclusion; instructional sequences; responding to student behaviour; sensory needs; classroom organisation; incorporating special interests, and more.
inclusionED represents the translation to practice of research outputs from The School Years Program (25 research projects conducted in over 300 school across Australia, over more than six years).