NDIS when you have Autism (Part 2): Access Request Form

This is a continuation of my NDIS series of blog posts.

The first step in applying for an NDIS package is to make sure you meet the following access requirements:
– Have a permanent impairment that significantly affects your ability to take part in everyday activities, or have a developmental delay;
– Be aged less than 65 when you first apply to enter the NDIS and meet additional age requirements if you live in SA or TAS;
– Live in Australia in an NDIS area on a specified date;
– Be an Australian citizen or hold a permanent visa or a Protected Special Category Visa

If you are aged over 65 you need to apply for MyAgedCare.

If you meet all the requirements, the next thing do is phone NDIA and ask for an Access Request Form to be mailed to you (You may say this to them in the following way: Hi, my name is Joe and I am interested in applying for an NDIS package. Would you be able to send me the Access Request Form?).

One of two things may happen when you ask them for an Access Request Form: –
1) The NDIA representative may ask you if you have time to complete a phone interview. If you say yes and complete this step they will just send out the Supporting Evidence Form to your mailing address. The Supporting Evidence Form is what your GP needs to complete.  The phone call may take 20-25 minutes to complete.
2) The NDIA representative will send to your mailing address the full-version of the Access Request Form to complete. The phone call will take about 5-10 minutes.

The NDIA representative will ask you the following type of questions: Name, Date of Birth, Address, Citizenship, Type of Disability, Pension (plus Centrelink Customer Access Number), GP details, Psychiatrist details, Psychologist details and other similar things. They may verify whether or not you are on the system, due to being linked to other services. You are asked more questions if you said yes to the phone interview, otherwise, you add all that information to the form you are sent. After completing this process they will give you your NDIS participant reference number. The representative will then say that they will post the Access Request Form or the Supporting Evidence Form out to your mailing address, the form is due 28 days from the date listed on the letterhead. So, if it says July 1st 2017 on the letterhead then it is due on July 29th 2017. From experience, I know that it can take about seven days for the form to arrive (it might arrive in your postbox on July 8th). So, be mindful of this.

If you don’t have Centrelink benefits then you will need to provide proof of residency and identity e.g. Birth Certificate, Medicare Card, Drivers License and other forms of ID. You have the option of uploading this to “MyPlace” or completing it as part of the Access Request Form.

Once you get your NDIS participant reference number you can set up your NDIS portal account (“MyPlace”) and link it to your “MyGov” account. If you don’t have “MyGov” then set this account up.

To set-up “MyPlace”, you need to speak with a NDIA representative to get a temporary access code to set up your account online. I have noticed that some people receive a letter with this temporary access code in the mail, but not all. So, you can either choose to wait until you get your paperwork in the mail to see if you get this temporary access code or just phone NDIA and ask for it directly.

“MyPlace” enables you to complete the Access Form online and also upload any supporting documentation. If you choose to post your documentation to NDIA, you still need to set-up this account at some point. This is because your NDIS Portal (“MyPlace”) is where you manage your package, appointments, referrals and events among other things when you have an approved NDIS package in place. So, gain access to this portal sooner rather than later. I have included a link to an official “MyPlace” set-up guide in the Notes section of this blog post.

Although NDIA says you have 28 days to complete and return the Access Request Form, don’t stress, you can ask for an extension i.e. an extra 28 days.

The thing that you must decide on is whether you want all your paperwork (i.e. current Diagnosis, Occupational Therapy Assessment and other supporting documentation) together before asking for an Access Request Form or after it. My recommendation would be to see your GP twice. See your GP initially to get access to specialists you have not seen, but would be able to support your NDIS application e.g. Occupational Therapists. Once this is out of the way ask NDIA for the Access Request Form. Then, book another appointment with your GP to fill out the ‘Supporting Evidence’ part of the Access Request Form. And finally, get this documentation back to NDIA as soon as possible.

Regarding getting things in order before asking for an Access Request Form, it can be quite overwhelming to request access and then have to rush through the process of compiling evidence. With lots of people applying for NDIS specialists may have a bit of a wait time. But whatever you choose to do, I wish you the best of luck!

In my next NDIS blog post, I’ll go through Areas of Need, plus how to phrase Functional Implications, Type of Support and Frequency of Support needed as it relates to Autism and Psychosocial Disabilities.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have experiences with NDIS?
To continue this dialogue:
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MyPlace (NDIS Portal): https://www.ndis.gov.au/participant-portal-user-guide
MyAgedCare: https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/
MyGov: https://my.gov.au/

Accessing NDIS when you have Autism – Part One

It can be quite overwhelming to pursue an NDIS package, particularly when you have limited supports (family or services) to assist you with this process. I decided to write a few blog posts on this topic with the hope that it will assist some people who are pursuing an NDIS package with the process. By virtue of working in community mental health, I have the vantage point of knowing what it is like to support individuals with psychosocial* disabilities to access NDIS.

When applying for an NDIS package, there are a few paths that you can walk down i.e. autism, mental health or autism and mental health path. To receive an NDIS package you are required to have a diagnosed disability (physical or psychosocial), and this diagnosis needs to be current and relevant (i.e. less than two years old & based on the DSM-V criteria).

The simpler path to NDIS is with a diagnosis of Autism Level 2 or 3. Having either one of these diagnoses means that you do not need to have Part C of the Evidence of Disability Form completed or provide evidence of the impact that your disability has on your life. You just need to submit a diagnostic report to NDIA which provides evidence of having this Level 2 or 3 diagnosis. Most likely, those with Autism Level 2 or 3 already have supports in place that will assist them to transition across to NDIS.

Access to NDIS becomes a bit more complex for those with a diagnosis of Autism Level 1, as you must provide evidence that illustrates your lack of functionality and what supports are needed to assist you. Similarly, those who are a self-diagnosed Autistic need to provide evidence of another disability to receive supports. Psychosocial Disabilities can include a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, or a combination of these issues. If your current clinical psychologist or psychiatrist does not give you an Autism diagnosis, for whatever reason, then use the psychological disorder pathway for NDIS.

Here is a recent example of mine from work: I recently supported someone who had a past diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome to get a more current diagnosis.  It is unclear whether this past diagnosis was official since no documented evidence exists. Upon review, the psychiatrist did not include an updated diagnosis of Autism in the diagnostic report. This may be due to the psychiatrists limited understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders; their specialisation was adults and old age. Instead, the psychiatrist listed PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorder-NOS, and Cluster-B Personality Disorder (i.e. Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic and Antisocial). In my opinion, it is not worth pursuing an Autism diagnosis via a psychiatrist if you’re time-pressed or have already started the application process and received (or completed via phone) the Access Request Form. Most psychiatrists have wait-lists (sometimes really long wait-lists) and it can also be challenging to find a good one. So, the mental health route is good enough for now, especially if you have a very good documented history of seeing your psychiatrist.

I recently participated in an e-conference for professionals seeking information about working with persons with Autism and Mental Health issues. One person that I interacted with in chat seemed to think that based on one’s current functionality a person with Autism Level 1 could receive supports under the Autism-only path. To me, this doesn’t make sense as the three levels of Autism are based on functionality and how much support the individuals need. There is no official information about this with regard to NDIS. But, one would think that if the functional impact was more severe or became more severe the person would receive an Autism Level 2 diagnosis. So, in my opinion, the only other thing that would increase the severity of Autism Level 1 is co-occurring Mental Health issues.

I would advise that when you’re applying for NDIS that you do not entirely rely on the General Practitioners (GPs) Functionality Assessment which is included in the NDIS Access Request Form that is posted to your mailing address. When I have been supporting clients to see GPs and psychiatrists they often fail to understand how psychosocial disabilities apply to NDIS. The GPs/Psychiatrists that I have interacted with also continue to fail to understand the relationship between psychosocial disabilities and NDIS when you give them examples and provide them with support tools. Your GP doesn’t get to see you in your home or the community, so they can’t properly assess you. They don’t really know you well enough. Perhaps things will improve over time when GPs and Psychiatrists go through their own training processes, and begin to understand what questions to ask people in relation to NDIS and psychosocial disabilities.

A lot of GPs are time poor, so they often want to rush through paperwork. They also do a sloppy job when they take the form to complete it at a later time. So, what ends up happening is that professionals will write “no support needed” or leave things blank under areas of need. I had this happen to a client the other day, her GP wrote no in all areas of functionality even though she has high psychosocial needs. The areas of need being: Mobility and Transport, Communication, Social Interaction, Learning, Self-Management, and Self-Care. Identifying areas of need is essential to getting an NDIS package. So, this sloppiness without additional supporting evidence will probably lead to a rejection letter from NDIA*. You can have your case reviewed, but it’s best to take steps to minimise this eventuality.

So, my advice would be for those with current supports in place to accumulate evidence through support letters from support workers/case managers and reports from psychologists, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists. All of which need to be less than two years old. The more current a document the better it is. For those of you without professional supports, my suggestion would be to not only provide diagnostic reports that outline your disability but to consider pursuing an Occupational Therapy (OT) Assessment. This is advice also advice I give to those who a reticent about getting a mental health diagnosis.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, it is worth pursuing a chronic disease management plan from your GP, as this will enable you to get rebates for seeing an OT. To a total of five sessions. A good OT report will include the following things: background & known medical information, social circumstances & supports, personal presentation at the assessment, cognitive function & mental state, current supports in place, overview of home environment, activities of daily living, and issues and support needs identified, and lastly assessment summary and professional recommendations. The exploration of all of these domains by a professional will assist to support your application for an NDIS package.

In my next post, I’ll go through the application process.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have experiences with NDIS?
To continue this dialogue:
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Notes from this blog post.

Psychosocial Disability: Term used to describe the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions related to mental health.
NDIA: The National Disability Insurance Agency, an independent statutory agency.
NDIS: The National Disability Insurance Scheme, a healthcare program initiated by the Australian Government for Australians with a disability.

Chronic Disease Management Plan:

Autism DSM-V: