The Helping Children with Autism (or HCWA) program is a Australian Government funding package created to increase access to early intervention therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Once a family has received HCWA, they can use this to pay for therapy services for their child. This therapy will be specifically tailored to the needs of their child and aimed at improving skills or modifying behaviours to improve the child’s capacity to participate in everyday life and prepare for school.
The HCWA funding gives families access to up to $12,000 to spend on therapy.
To be eligible for this funding, a child must:
- Be between the ages of 0 and 6 years (funding lasts until they are 7 years old);
- Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
- Have received a clear diagnosis of ASD made by a paediatrician, psychiatrist, or a multi-disciplinary team consisting of at least a qualified psychologist and a speech therapist.
Ideally, the HCWA funding will ensure more choice and flexibility to a family in accessing early intervention therapies for their child. The funding is managed by the family, who may select any therapist on the program and change therapists if they need to. This gives families the freedom to focus on the areas and skills that they think are important and will most help their child.
Medicare offers rebates for therapy sessions delivered by allied health professionals (therapists). These plans are much like using Medicare for seeing a doctor. These plans need to be written by a doctor before they can be used.
There are many different Medicare plans that are available, but three are particularly helpful for offsetting the cost of therapy. These are:
- The Chronic Disease Management Plan (sometimes called the Enhanced Primary Care plan or EPC);
- The Mental Health Care Plan;
- The Helping Children with Autism Access to Diagnosis and Treatment Plan (sometimes called Medicare Item 135).
For more information about these Medicare plans, please visit the Medicare website.
You can also see a Medicare information sheet that has been developed by Amaze (Autism Victoria) here.
State funded services
The Australian state and territory governments also provide disability services and early intervention services to families of children with disabilities, although the nature of these services and how they work will vary from state to state. Often, the government department responsible for the early intervention funding will provide a service or agency with funding, and the service will then provide support to the family.
Generally, these services generally finish when a child starts school.
An early intervention service may provide special education, therapy, counselling, service planning and coordination, assistance and support to access services such as kindergarten and child care. Families may be allocated a key worker. A key worker model is where an early childhood intervention professional becomes a family’s primary contact point and the worker practices from a strengths-based, family-centred perspective that enables the family to be in control of their lives. They may visit the family home, or provide services in a clinic, community setting, child care, or kindergarten/preschool.
The overall aim of these services is to provide parents and families with the knowledge, skills and support to meet the needs of their child and to optimise the child's development and ability to participate in family and community life.
As the services and support available may be different depending on where you live, the best source of information is the services themselves. For more information, please contact your State or Territory association.
Private health cover
People with extras cover on their health insurance may receive a certain number of therapy sessions or a subsidy towards therapy sessions claimable from their insurer. If you have private health cover or are interested in getting some, enquire with the insurer what they offer in terms of extras.
Disability Care Australia
Disability Care Australia (previously called National Disability Insurance Scheme) is a national initiative that will provide funding for people with disabilities. Although at time of writing, the details for this scheme are not fully known, it is likely that it will give individuals with a permanent disability an amount of funding based on their needs to spend on services and support. This will likely include therapy and related interventions. Please visit www.disabilitycareaustralia.gov.au for more information.
Cost of Therapy
Fees for services delivered by therapists can vary, and depend on a number of factors.
Some of these factors include:
- The level of qualification and the amount of experience a therapist has
- The duration of the session
- Whether the therapist works for themselves, or if they are part of a large organisation
- Whether the therapist provides services from a clinic or whether they travel to your home or to your child’s childcare, kindergarten, or school
- Whether they are delivering an assessment with a written report or a regular therapy session
- Whether the therapy was 1-on-1, or whether it was a group session with multiple participants.
A therapist may offer a number of different services or packages and these may be listed in a brochure or available on their website. You are always able to ask a therapist what their fees are, regardless of the method of payment you intend to use. This is a question you should ask before you make an appointment with them.
Psychology fees may range from $140 to $230 for a one-hour, in-clinic session.
Occupational Therapy fees may range from $120 to $200 for a one-hour, in-clinic session.
Speech Pathology fees may range from $115 to $250 for a one-hour, in-clinic session.