April is World Autism Month, a time to come together to celebrate and to promote understanding and connection to create a more inclusive world.
Here at Leap in! we support many autistic people on the NDIS and their families. And autism and the NDIS is one of the topics we get the most questions about.
So today, we’re exploring some common questions about the NDIS and autism to help you get a better understanding of the supports and services available.
But first, a note about language: After seeking input from our community, we’ve chosen to use “identity-first” language. We know there are different opinions on this and we acknowledge and respect people’s individual preferences and right to choose how their identity is described.
Is autism covered by the NDIS?
Yes! In fact, 54% of people on the NDIS under the age of 18 and 35% of participants overall have autism. However, to be eligible for the NDIS, you must meet both the eligibility and disability requirements.
For this reason, not every autistic child or adult will be eligible.
For each primary disability, the NDIS requires treating health professionals to use standard assessment processes that are considered “best practice”.
For autistic people, the treating health professionals are:
Levels of autism.
Generally, a diagnosis of autism is categorised as one of 3 levels:
Level 1 – requires support
Level 2 – requires substantial support
Level 3 – requires very substantial support.
NDIS eligibility is based on reduced functional capacity in one or more of the following areas; communication, mobility, social interaction, learning, self-care and self-management.
Top tip: Functional capacity assessments are only required for autistic people diagnosed as level 1. Those who are diagnosed with level 2 and 3 autism are automatically accepted.
For more information on general NDIS eligibility, check out FAQs: All your NDIS eligibility questions answered and the NDIS eligibility checklist.
Will my child with autism be eligible for the NDIS?
If you’re concerned about the development of your child, support is available. It may be through the NDIS or another NDIS-funded program called the early childhood approach. A diagnosis is not needed to get help through the early childhood approach.
For children aged 0 to 6, the easiest and fastest way to get help is to contact an early childhood partner. A referral is not necessary. Early childhood partners connect families with the right supports and services support the family and the child to build on their strengths and develop skills to take part in everyday activities.
For autistic children aged seven, access to the NDIS is via the same process as for adults.
You need to provide proof of diagnosis and evidence of the functional impact of autism on your child. Note that evidence of functional impact is only required for children diagnosed with level 1 autism.
If accepted, your child will receive an NDIS Plan based on their individual needs. The NDIS Plan will generally be reviewed every year or whenever their needs change.
What types of autism-related supports can the NDIS fund?
The NDIS funds a wide range of supports for autistic people. These may include:
Support to learn important life skills and become more independent
Speech, communication and occupational therapy
Assistive technology, including equipment for communication. Examples include scribe boards, wobble stools and pencil grips
In-home and daily living support.
It is important to set clear goals ahead of an NDIS Plan or plan reassessment meeting to get the right funding for your needs.
What are some examples of the therapies funded by the NDIS?
There are many different support programs and therapies funded by the NDIS for autistic people. We cover some of the more common programs below.
Occupational therapy can help autistic people understand and address sensory needs, fine motor and gross motor issues and how to stay emotionally regulated.
Speech therapy can assist with communication, listening, understanding and language, as well as social skills.
Physical and exercise therapy can assist with low muscle tone, build motor skills and improve strength, posture, and balance.
Autism CRC / Autism National Guidelines
Autism, What Next
NDIS and access requirements for autism
We are here to help.
Here at Leap in! we support autistic people and their families with NDIS-related questions every day.
First published on 1 January 2020. Updated 09 March 2022 and April 2023.
 NDIS, Report to disability ministers 2022-2023 Q2, December 2022