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23 April 2024

NDIS and autism: The support coordinator advantage.

If you’re autistic and on the NDIS, having a support coordinator can really make a difference to how you use your plan.

A support coordinator not only has a solid understanding of how the NDIS works, they are well connected and can help you find supports in your area. Plus there are loads more ways that a support coordinator can help you to be better organised with your plan and funding.

Whether you’re the parent or carer of an autistic child or an autistic teen, tween or adult, having a support coordinator can help ensure you receive the support and services you need to thrive.

A note about language: After seeking input from our community, at Leap in! we’ve chosen to use ‘identity-first’ language when referring to autism and autistic people. 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.


The role of support coordinators.

Support coordinators are professionals who can help you understand and use your NDIS Plan. What they do depends on your individual needs and goals.

They can:

  • Help you use your plan to achieve your goals
  • Access community and mainstream services
  • Build your ability to become more independent
  • Connect with other people such as family members and friends
  • Find the right providers
  • Support you to communicate with providers to get the services you need
  • Help with service bookings and agreements.

If you have support coordination, it will appear under Capacity Building supports in your NDIS Plan.


How a support coordinator can help.

So what does all this mean in practice? Well, it depends on your needs.

Support coordinators know a lot about the NDIS and how it works so can explain things and guide you through the entire process. Having a support coordinator can reduce stress and free you up to get on with living your life.

Keep in mind that support coordinators aren’t advocates. They can’t represent you or sign agreements on your behalf.


1. Understand and use your NDIS Plan.

Support coordinators understand NDIS budgets, how they can be used and how to plan the use of your supports in a way that suits you.

They can help you connect your goals and your NDIS Plan, track progress towards your goals and make adjustments along the way.

It’s helpful to have a support coordinator who has lived experience working with autistic people or is autistic themselves as they will have a better understanding of your needs and how the NDIS can work for you.


2. Connect with non-NDIS supports.

A support coordinator is well connected. They can connect you with non-NDIS supports such as community groups, mainstream supports and other services.

For example:

  • For families with autistic children, they can connect you with community organisations, groups for parents of autistic children and early childhood education
  • For autistic teenagers making the transition from school to further education or work, they can bring together NDIS and non-NDIS supports to make the process more effective
  • They know about other services available so can explain the process to get a companion card, housing, Centrelink supports or a travel concession card.


3. Find alternative supports.

An NDIS Plan may not always fund all the supports you need. A support coordinator can help find alternatives to NDIS funded supports if funding is low or if the NDIS won’t fund a particular support.

For example:

  • If your child has no funding for therapy but needs an OT, they may help you find an OT in the mainstream system that charges lower fees so you’re less out of pocket
  • Sometimes it can be tricky to get psychology funded by the NDIS. Your support coordinator can help you find a psychologist with a minimum gap fee or a social worker who can offer mental health supports instead.


4. Build capacity and skills.

Support coordinators can collaborate with other professionals to identify strategies and resources to help people on the NDIS and their families and carers to develop skills.

For example:

  • Provide parents with education and knowledge about how best to support their autistic child
  • Explain different supports the NDIS may fund such as approved training for parents to better understand autism
  • Training and support to better understand your NDIS Plan
  • If an autistic teenager is unable to complete school, they may be able to assist in finding a different approach to education such as TAFE and introduce you to TAFE supports and systems.


5. Work effectively with providers.

Finding the right providers, negotiating rates and all of the associated paperwork can be stressful. Support coordinators are ideal partners when it comes to matching providers with your needs, negotiating service agreements and resolving disputes.

For example:

  • They can bridge communication gaps between autistic individuals and NDIS providers such as making initial introductions and ensuring information is conveyed in a clear and accessible way
  • Organise translation services for people who speak a language other than English
  • Conduct regular reviews, gather feedback and address any concerns or issues
  • For children on the NDIS, they can organise and attend meetings with providers such as allied health staff and school representatives to ensure everyone understands the child’s needs and goals.


6. Prepare for plan meetings. 

Your support coordinator is someone you work with regularly. They get to know you, how you communicate, your needs and your NDIS Plan. So it makes sense that they can assist you to get ready for plan meetings and plan reassessments.

For example:

  • Gathering reports, evidence and documentation to support requests for funding
  • Anticipating questions the NDIS may ask and help you plan responses in advance
  • Helping you effectively explain your support needs
  • Attending plan meetings with you and your family if needed
  • Ensuring the plan you get reflects the agreed services and follow up any issues or concerns.

Support coordinators are crucial allies for autistic people and their families navigating the NDIS. They provide guidance and support, empowering you to understand and use your plans effectively. From connecting you with non-NDIS supports to preparing for plan meetings, support coordinators play a pivotal role in enhancing the NDIS experience and ensuring your needs are met every step of the way.


How to get support coordination in your NDIS Plan.

If you think you might benefit from working with a support coordinator, the first step is to discuss this with your NDIS partner who can assist you with getting funding for support coordination in your plan.

As with all NDIS funding, support coordination is only available to participants where the support is considered “reasonable and necessary” so not everyone will be able to get support coordination in their NDIS Plan.

Take a look at the NDIS website for more information.

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