The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will roll out across Sydney from July 2017. We invited Kerrie Turner, a mother of three accessing the scheme in the Hunter Region NDIS trial site, to talk about her experience at Plumtree’s Ready, Set, NDIS workshop in January 2016.
Kerrie’s five year-old son Joshua, who has a global developmental delay, did not have access to funding before the NDIS as he did not have a diagnosis. Eligibility into the scheme was determined with documentation from his GP, occupational and speech therapists. Funding is available depending on each child’s individual needs.
While still being developed before its nation-wide implementation, the NDIS focuses on positive outcomes for people with a disability. Vision, planning and goal setting are key to getting the most out of it. Kerrie realised she needed to change her approach. “Originally we were still in the mindset of therapy and how far Joshua was behind,” she says.
Planning and goal setting
Therapies are not goals. Rather than thinking ‘he needs physio!’ Kerrie began to consider what other children of Joshua’s age were doing. This enabled her to identify and prioritise goals, then consider the resources needed to achieve them. “It got us into thinking about daily, weekly and monthly routines, and how he participates at preschool, school and playgroups.” She wanted Joshua to be independent, to communicate, build friendships, play with peers at the park and be toilet trained. These goals were used to create a plan of the supports required.
Being in control of the funding gave Kerrie the flexibility to choose support providers that best suited the family’s needs. They can be from different organisations, but she preferred to use just one. “I like the idea that they are together and have the same philosophy.” NDIS participants can choose to handle all the finances and invoicing by themselves (self-manage), let the NDIA manage it, or employ a third-party Plan Manager.
Funding enabled a team of professionals led by a Key Worker to visit the family’s environment. They help Joshua achieve goals during daily activities, such as going shopping or attending his sisters’ soccer training. Kerrie pointed out, however, that therapies are not the only answer and encouraged brainstorming other ways to accomplish goals. To teach him animal safety on their country property, for example, she suggested buying a toy snake and practicing what to do when you see one.
“Think about goals you might reach in 12 months,” Kerrie said. They don’t have to be achieved by then, but progress should be made. Plans can also change along the way as you learn more or find that other supports are required.
Learning new skills
Kerrie encouraged parents to take advantage of workshops about planning and goal setting to get the most from the new system. “Think big and think creatively,” she enthused. Becoming a good advocate for your child and family will also be important. Connecting with user-led organisations for networking and support from peers is essential: “You learn the best and the most from each other.”
Kerrie also learned something from parents attending the workshop. When she mentioned that looking after Samuel didn’t allow time to watch her daughter play team sports, a mother in the audience offered a solution: Kerrie could arrange to have a support worker look after Samuel while they are all at the sports ground.
Kerrie was touched and inspired. “I just want to be a soccer mum too.”