News

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

By now most of us have heard about the NDIS - but what does it mean for people with DIFFerent abilities and those who support them? In essence, the NDIS will create 3 major changes:

1. Individualised plans and payments - Clients are now customers. More autonomy and control over funding for people with DIFFerent abilities and their families / carers.
2. Double the funding - Previous funding without the NDIS was $11 Billion - now there will be $22 Billion available to support people with DIFFerent abilities.
3. Funding will be similar to insurance principles -  A focus on building capacity to reduce lifetime costs.

On July 1 st 2016 the NDIS has rolled out support to roughly 425,000 participants, compared to the 25,000 that were previously in the program within trial zones. It is estimated that over 30% of all participants receiving NDIS funding will have an Autism Spectrum Disorder as their primary diagnosis.

My Diffability is excited to be part of the growing support for people in Australia with a disability. We would like to help make this new process as easy as possible for families and service providers, so please feel free to contact us for any advice about resources / the process, or to request a quote. We are able to supply a quote with all necessary information needed for your NDIS application. All the information provided to you is from an experienced Occupational Therapist and / or Speech Pathologist.

Would you like to know more? Visit the NDIS website for more information. Please note this advice is general. 

NDIS Information sheet: Click Here

“They won’t (or can’t) stop putting things in their mouths!” - Supporting kids in the classroom

 

We hope everyone’s little ones are well and truly settled back into the new school year and off to a blazing start for term 2. Term 2 is always an interesting term because it’s the time where many of us slowly stop saying, “let’s just give them time to settle in and see if the problem is still happening later on...”

A really common behaviour we see throughout all the year levels at kinder and school is oral motor sensory seeking.

What does this look like? It typically presents as children placing non-food objects in their mouths, and it can feel like it’s happening every time you’re looking at them! This can be all sorts of things like their school t-shirt or dress, pencils, tanbark, and perhaps most commonly, the poor drink bottles! If you notice that your child’s school uniform is in tatters from being chewed on, or you’re finding yourself replacing drink bottles more often than usual, this can be a sign that your child is an ‘oral sensory seeker’.

The oral motor sensory system is one of the most significant systems in terms of the input it receives and how it helps to regulate our bodies. As adults we allow ourselves to chew on pens or gum as a regulator, but at school children unfortunately don’t have the opportunities to use outlets like this.

Chewing and sucking input that the mouth receives is extremely calming and organising for the sensory system. It helps children to concentrate, attend, listen, participate and learn more!

If you know that your child or one of your students is an oral-motor sensory seeker it’s really important to support them with their needs. It’s important to find more socially acceptable and age-appropriate ways for the children to get this input they really need, rather than demolishing drink bottles, pencils and school uniforms.

Some of the younger children we work with enjoy mouth games like blowing bubbles or whistles. In the classroom environment or throughout the day however a portable resource may be more appropriate. There is an increasingly amazing range of cool tools for supporting oral sensory seekers, many of which are very subtle / commercial and so do not make kids "stand out" if this is a concern particularly in a mainstream setting.

Some children tend to prefer mouthing their uniform sleeves. In this case, we find most success with resources like the teething bling bangle. Many children prefer to chew shirt collars though, so using a necklace may be more suitable. For example, the sensachew pendants are a great resource for children who like a bit more intensity (i.e. tend to chew). Alternatively teething bling is also great, but we would not recommend for children who like to chew as they are not designed for this purpose. 

Another resource that is worth a mention and that we absolutely love especially for kids who tend to chew on their pens and pencils is the pencil topper. These handy toppers fit over the top of the child's pen or pencil and can be chewed on all day long!

One final handy hint from our resident OT! It’s also really helpful to provide these children with crunchy or chewy foods throughout the day at snack and lunch times as another way for their sensory systems to be getting the input they need to stay regulated throughout the day. That way they are getting this input in a naturally occurring way as part of their usual daily routine, and it can help reduce the need for seeking out less desirable alternatives. Remember, when thinking about sensory processing differences it is not “won’t”, but rather, “can’t”. Help to introduce alternatives rather than trying to stop the behaviour and you'll be on the road to success!

Happy teaching and learning everyone!

“They won’t (or can’t?) sit still and listen!” – Supporting kids in the classroom

The first week back of the new school term or year is often a time of heightened energy levels and excitement, but also trepidation for lots of children.

Typically we see children settling in reasonably well during the first week, trying their best to sit still and listen to their new teacher and following all (or most) instructions without difficulty. However, after one or two weeks at school some more complex difficulties begin to appear for some students. Often these difficulties can resemble what many people would consider to be ‘adhd symptoms’.

Some students will begin to fidget with anything they can find on the floor or ground outside, such as pieces of blue tac or tanbark , especially when sitting on the floor during mat time. Others will chew on pens, pencils, clothes, hat cords, and water bottles; resulting in the need to constantly replace these common classroom items.

Suddenly it appears almost impossible to sit still and listen to the teacher without moving around or leaning up against tables or friends. Soon the noise-making and humming starts too!

Here is the GOOD NEWS – these types of ‘seeking’ behaviours are actually communication and serve an important purpose. Our children / students are showing us that they are trying their best to concentrate, participate and learn, but they need a little extra sensory input to help regulate themselves in order to sit still, listen and learn.

Rather than trying to stop these behaviours, a more effective and positive approach for all involved is to consider how we can provide kids with the input they need to help regulate themselves in the classroom, in a way that limits distractions and does not have a negative impact on their social relationships.

The fantastic Move n Sit wedge is one of the most popular resources we provide for students who need to move around when seated on the floor or at the table. They are able to use it to seek out that movement that they need, which enhances attention and concentration.

One of our other favourite simple strategies is to use a piece of theraband tied around the front two legs of a school chair so the student can kick, bounce and move against the resistance of the band, providing alternative activity to reduce rocking on chairs or getting up and walking around every few minutes.

The improvement in concentration and work output when students who like to chew are provided with oral-motor tools such as pencil toppers can also be quite amazing. They can receive that deep pressure input they so often seek out without having to put things they find on the ground in their mouths, or chewing on their uniforms!

Fidgets are fantastic when used correctly (we suggest putting some clear rules and expectations in place for the child) for children who need to fidget to maintain concentration.

If adults are allowed to chew on pens, bend and play with paperclips, have a cup of coffee, and sit on spinning wheelie chairs to maintain our concentration without others considering these behaviours to be adhd symptoms, why would we try to stop children from doing what they need to do to listen in class? Winnie Dunn's 'Living Sensationally - understanding your senses' provides a really nice summary of this concept and helps to normalise these sorts of behaviours, which increases acceptance and understanding.

The main point we would like to reinforce is that it’s not that your child or student WON’T sit still and listen, but rather, it’s that they CAN’T.......yet.

We are here to provide appropriate ideas and resources for children who need to move and fidget in the classroom in a more controlled and appropriate way.  Please feel free to contact us for complimentary advice from an experienced Occupational Therapist.

Happy teaching and learning everyone!

Getting ready to go (back) to school!

The end of school holidays often brings mixed emotions for the parents and children we support, who need to turn their thoughts to almost ‘re-programming’ themselves after a long, less structured, out of routine break.

The thought of getting ready in the morning for school, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed (uniforms!) and everything else that comes with school can sometimes be overwhelming. Here are some tips and tricks to help increase the likelihood of a smooth and successful transition back to school for you and your child.

Plan ahead

While the sun is shining why not take your child to their school to have a walk around and explore the environment? Have a play in the playground and take some photos so you can look over them again at home to increase comfort in the new environment. Using your smartphone for photos can be useful as they are easily accessible.

Morning Routines

Start getting your child into bed a little earlier each night in the week leading up to the start of school to ensure they are in a good routine by the time school starts. Make a morning picture chart or schedule with a list of the steps for getting ready more independently in the mornings. These can be home-made using whiteboards for example, or are available ready-made if you need to save time. The My Busy Day schedule is one of our favourites. Use a timer to help stay on track. Timers are a fantastic resource for motivating children to get ready in time for school in the mornings. Use as a motivator to be at the breakfast table in time, or to finish getting dressed in a short time frame. Some children may benefit from having a small reward for working through their schedule (something like a high-5, watching a favourite cartoon, or having a quick play on the iPad).

School snack and lunches:

We know how difficult it can be for parents with a child who eats a limited variety of food. Have your child participate in packing their school lunch or writing a lunch menu that they can choose from each day for school. Success is typically achieved more easily when a child is given options. Instead of asking an open ended question like, “what do you want on your sandwich?”, try giving concrete choices… “do you want cheese, or jam?”. For more general advice and great ideas, we love 'Finicky Eaters: What to do when kids won't eat'.

Even though getting back into the swing of things for school can take a lot of time and planning, preparation always pays off! The invaluable support, preparation and guidance you offer your child helps them to feel more confident, comfortable and independent while making this big transition.

We wish everyone all the best for the school year!

Your Funding Options

Helping Children with Autism Funding (HCWA)

The Australian Government has committed ongoing funding to address the need for services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their carers and famlies.

The eligibility criteria for children accessing the Early Intervention funding through the HCWA Package (autism funding) is as follows:

  • To be eligible for the Early Intervention funding package a child must have been seen by an Autism Advisor and deemed eligible to access the program before their sixth birthday. 
  • If a diagnosis is received the child will receive $12,000 in funding from the Government, under the Early Intervention (EI) component. This funding can be used until the child’s seventh birthday to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year.
  • Up to 35% of a child’s Early Intervention funding may be used to purchase resources, to a maximum of $2,100 per financial year, or $4,200 in total.  Resources being purchased must be assessed by an Early Intervention Panel Provider (FaHCSIA provider - usually an OT, SP, or Psychologist)  as being integral to the child’s therapy goals.

For more information on the HCWA Package (autism funding) please visit the Governments website:  http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/for-people-with-disability/helping-children-with-autism

 

Better Start For Children with a Disability Initiative Funding

Who is eligible to receive support under Better Start?

Eligible children who are aged under six years and have been diagnosed with any of the following:

  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Williams syndrome
  • Moderate or greater vision or hearing impairment
  • Angelman syndrome
  • Prader Willi syndrome
  • Kabuki syndrome
  • CHARGE syndrome
  • Microcephaly.
  • Cornelia de Lange syndrome
  • Smith-Magenis syndrome
  • ‘Cri du Chat syndrome

How the funding can be accessed: 

  • Eligible children must be registered before their 6th birthday. Families have access to this funding for early intervention until the child turns 7.
  • Eligible children can be registered to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (up to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year).
  • Early intervention services can be accessed using the funding, provided the professionals are members of the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.
  • Up to 35% of a child’s early intervention funding can be used for the purchase of resources that compliment their therapy goals. This means that up to $4,200 in total out of the $12,000 can be used for resources, up to a total of $2,100 per one financial year.

For more information and where on the Governements Better Start for Children Package please visit their website:  http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/for-people-with-disability/better-start-for-children-with-disability-initiative

Is there an autism test?

Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed by health professionals such as paediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and / or other allied health professionals (this will vary depending on where you live) with specialist knowledge and experience in the area. 


There is no single test for Autism Spectrum Disorder (autism test). The diagnosing professional(s) will utilise special tests and tools designed to detect autism, however this process involves careful observation of the child and discussion with carers rather than something simple like a blood test.

Some of the tests and tools that professionals may use as part of the diagnosis process are:

- the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
- Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI)
- Developmental Behaviour Checklist (DBC)
- Modified CHecklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)

If you are wondering whether your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder the following checklist might be helpful (this is not a test for autism).

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (often) have difficulties and differences in the areas of:

- Social interactions
- Communication
- Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours
- Sensory Processing

Social interactions
Children with autism might:
 
- seem unaware of other people
- appear to be in a world of their own
- have difficulty relating to others
- not know how to play or interact with other children, particularly same-aged peers
- not respond when you call their name
- have looking people in the eye / making eye contact
- fail to respond to greetings and other social interactions

Communication
Children with autism might:

- not babble or vocalise like other children
- be nonverbal, or have limited speech
- not be able to follow simple instructions, particularly out of routine / context
- talk ‘at’ rather than ‘to’ you
- use mainly echolalic speech (repeat words or sentences spoken by another person, or perhaps from movies or favourite tv shows)
- have inexplicable tantrums / meltdowns
- speak with an unusual tone of voice / accent

Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours

Children with autism might:

- have trouble with changes in routine, or finishing an activity / starting a new one
- have their own routines that they follow, or behaviours that they engage in over and over again
- move their bodies in unusual ways (such as rocking back and forth / flapping their hands, etc)
- have obsessions with particular objects / toys / topics (for example, they might like to carry or collect things / have a keen interest in dinosaurs, space, trains or another topic)
- play with toys in unusual ways (for example spinning a wheel on a train, or lining up toy cars)

Sensory Processing

Children with autism might:

-be very sensitive to certain noises like vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, lawn mowers, crying, etc
- be fussy / restricted eaters
- be very active or always on the go (for example running, jumping, spinning, climbing, jumping, etc)
- have trouble wearing particular clothing items like shoes or socks
- walk on their tip-toes
- look at objects / people side on or out of the corner of their eye
- make noises to themselves like singing, humming, vocalising
- do things to distort their vision like flicking their fingers in front of their eyes, or poking the corner of their eye
- study objects intently / closely
- smell people or non-food objects frequently

No single sign listed above will result in a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, however if you feel that your child displays some of them or if you are worried about their development then it is very important that you seek advice from a medical / health professional as soon as possible.
 
Helpful websites: 




Autism Toys

Autistic children can greatly benefit from autism toys that are aimed at helping them express themselves. Often children with Autism are observed to play on their own or enjoy activities that they can play by themselves. The right choice of toy for someone with Autism is one that  helps to encourage play skills, facilitates the development of the child, and provides them with an outlet for their endless energy.

Often children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have sensory processing issues. When looking to purchase Autism toys it is important to take a few things into account:

Autism toys can assist in developing play skills and development in varied areas.

  • Keep in mind that some toys that make noise can be overwhelming and distressing for some people with ASD. When choosing a toy that makes noise, it is best to consider a toy that the person can have full control of the noise being made, whether it is with an on/off button or a volume control.
  • Autism toys need to be easy to grasp and manipulate. Children with ASD often have decreased fine motor skills and in-hand manipulation skills. Choose a toy that will be simple enough for them to have success when using it, instead of making them feel frustrated and inadequate with something too complex.
  • Play it safe. Avoid toys that have sharp edges or multiple pieces, especially pieces that are small enough to be swallowed.
 

Children with ASD often play in rigid and repetitive ways. For example, pressing a musical button over and over again, or spinning the wheels of a toy car repeatedly.

Choose toys that have potential for everyone to use their imagination. Model the use of the toy by showing how it is supposed to be played with and assist with any steps that may be challenging to begin with.

Autism toys should be chosen to set the child up for success! Choose toys that are instantly interesting to them and that can be adapted to play with in many different ways!

 

Happy toy shopping!

 My Diffability Australia

 

 

 

My Diffability Australia – resources for different abilities

Books for Autistic Children

Autistic children (children with Autism Spectrum Disorders) should, like all other children, have frequent opportunities to engage with books and develop their literacy skills. Reading a book with an autistic child is also a fantastic way to strengthen your relationship with them and to spend some quality time communicating and interacting as you read the book together. Books present information visually so it makes sense that most autistic children enjoy reading and learning from books – they are strong visual learners after all.

Books for autistic children provide many learning opportunities

Books for autistic children can be used as important teaching and learning tools as well as being lots of fun! Books for autistic children are available across a broad range of topics and can be used to promote awareness, understanding, skills and confidence in all areas of life.

Here are just some of the topics covered in the books for autistic children you will find in our book section specifically for children and adolescents.

  • Social skills / communication – children can read about and learn social and communication skills like asking a friend to play, sharing, listening and learning, plus many more. They can then practice these skills with your support with the aim of having more successful interactions with other children and adults alike.

  • Activities of daily living (self care) – children can learn more about those daily routines that most of us consider second nature, but that can be quite challenging for some. Activities like toilet training, sleeping in their own beds, and even going to the dentist are some examples. These books for autistic children can really make a difference as information is presented visually rather than instructions always being given verbally.

  • Learning about themselves and difference – we often hear from parents that one of their biggest worries is thinking about talking to their children about their diagnosis. It can be difficult to explain and even harder for the child with autism to understand. There are some useful books available for both children and adolescents that have been written to support and guide them in continuing to learn about themselves and others.

  • Sensory / emotional regulation -  children with autism can find it hard to understand why they feel the way they feel and who can blame them really? It’s pretty complicated sometimes! Thankfully there are some really nicely written and colourful books available to help them in this area, as they read about fictional children with similar issues and the things they learnt to help themselves.

 

If you are looking for a particular book, but are unable to find it on our site please contact us and we will do our best to find it for you.

 

Happy reading and learning!

My Diffability Australia



 My Diffability Australia - resources for different abilities

Gifts for Autistic Children

Looking for something special for the special person in your life with special needs? It can be hard enough trying to decide what to get someone in the best of circumstances, but trying to find a gift for children or adults with special needs can be an extra challenge. 

When thinking about purchasing gifts for autistic children (children with Autism Spectrum Disorder) or special needs children (children with special needs) one of the most useful points to keep in mind is that these children, like all of us, have their own interests and things that really motivate them. Consider these unique interests when shopping for that perfect gift.

Here are some tips and tricks that might help you to make your decision:
 

  • If you are shopping for a child who seems to always be on the move and is very active it is likely that they would love and appreciate a gift that allows them to get movement and activity either indoors or outdoors.  
  • If you have noticed that the child you are shopping for likes to look at objects intensely as though they are studying them, then think about something that is visually interesting and stimulating for the perfect gift. 
  • Children do not always like to get clothes for their birthdays or other special occasions, but sometimes clothing can make the best gifts for autistic children (children with Autism Spectrum Disorder) or children with special needs (children with special needs). Why? The clothing on our site is designed with these special children in mind and may prove to be the gift that they never want to be without!    Gifts for autistic children and special needs children
  • Many children with special needs thoroughly enjoy drawing and arts and craft, so resources that allow them to participate in these kinds of activities can be great gifts. What makes these kinds of gifts for autistic children (children with Autism Spectrum Disorder) or gifts for special needs children (children with special needs) extra special is that they provide fantastic learning opportunities and experiences that enhance development of fine motor, language, communication, and other skills. 
  • Construction and building activities are often very motivating for children and can make fun and useful gifts for autistic children (children with Autism Spectrum Disorder) or gifts for special needs children (children with special needs). The possibilities are endless with these fantastic toys and as such they can provide hours of entertainment for children, even those who seem to have limited attention spans. They also provide perfect opportunities for other children and adults to interact and play cooperatively with children with special needs.


We have a special section with some products we think might be fantastic gift ideas, so have a browse with the above tips and tricks in mind. If you are still struggling why not consider one of our gift certificates

Alternatively, please feel free to contact us with a little bit of information about the person you are shopping for and we would be happy to make some suggestions.



My Diffability Australia - resources for different abilities

Toys for Special Needs Children

Toys for special needs childrenToday more and more toy companies are creating and marketing toys for children with special needs. These toys facilitate attention, make them laugh, and can promote play skills that sometimes require extra support for children to develop. When choosing toys for special needs children, consider things that are meaningful to them. 

Do they love music, cause and effect toys, messy play, high energy physical games, turn taking games where they have an opportunity to win, or simply toys that promote and feed their curiosity?

 

Tactile toys: Toys that are fun to experience new textures and feelings through the hands can assist in building hand-eye coordination, attention and concentration as well as the fine motor skills required for hand writing, doing up zips and buttons, and engaging them in something that is interesting!

Language toys: Language and communication is a part of everyday life. Some children have difficulties in these areas, so choosing the right special needs toys that help to promote these skills can really support their development. Consider toys that provide rich language experiences and help you to support children to build their vocabularies, cause and effect toys, toys that can be played with cooperatively and that provide valuable interaction opportunities, and/or perhaps toys that help to integrate sounds and encourage imitation of music or rhythms. Consider also how toys can be played within a group, as this can promote social communication skills and peer interactions and relationships.

Imagination: It is important for all children to develop their imagination skills. Children with special needs, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), sometimes lack these skills, so it is increasingly important to assist in introducing opportunities for these skills to develop through play. Toys that involve creativity leave the doors of imaginative play open to any possibilities! Special needs toys that include building, painting, creating noise or change to the environment are great for using the imagination.

Self esteem and confidence: Children with special needs can often find everyday activities and games very challenging. Remember, they are just kids and kids love to play games! When choosing special needs toys consider the level of skill they require and if it is achievable for them. Choosing a toy that sets them up for success will encourage increased self esteem and confidence in your child, which is a great starting point to build from when developing other skills.

Social Skills: Social skills are an integral part of learning how to be involved and included in social situations. Consider games and toys that encourage turn taking, learning how to be a good loser and understanding how to follow the set rules of a game.

 

 

Happy teaching and learning!

My Diffability Australia

 

 

My Diffability Australia - resources for different abilities