What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common developmental disability that affects an individual’s social interactions, behaviour and ability to interact with their environment. It affects about 1% of the population (1 in every 100 people).

ASD is the umbrella term for several different disorders, including autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). It is a disability that is considered to be on a spectrum – meaning no two individuals with ASD are alike and there is a range of severity and characteristics displayed by each person with an ASD diagnosis.

There are however, some signs that are common for those with an ASD diagnosis to exhibit, which will be discussed later in this article.

Is autism a permanent disability?

Yes, ASD is considered to be permanent, and without a cure.

Signs, behaviours and symptoms of autism

These are:

Absent, delayed or abnormal language patternsSpeech and language difficulties
Isolated and repetitive play behaviourIntellectual disability
Body movements such as flapping and toe walking (and behaviours that may cause self-injury)Sleep difficulties
Obsessive or restricted behaviourAttention and concentration issues
Rituals and routines – high levels of stress when change occurs and routines brokenEpilepsy
Tantrums relating to stress, confusion, frustration and angerAnxiety and depression
Sensitivities to particular sensory stimuli such as tastes, sounds, smells and texturesPoor motor skills

Many individuals with ASD are highly sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell and vision. This sensitivity often results in strong reactions and behavioural outbursts, which can be very distressing to the person with ASD, as well as their family and friends.

Depending on the severity of the ASD, some individuals may be able to live independently, while others might require constant assistance and support.

Does autism qualify for NDIS?

Absolutely! As a permanent disability, the NDIS provides funding for persons with ASD. In fact, autism spectrum disorder is the largest primary disability category for the NDIS.

However, there are some conditions and not all individuals with autism spectrum disorder will be approved for NDIS funding.

If the individual is assessed as having ASD with level 2 severity (requiring substantial support) or level 3 severity (requiring very substantial support), they are very likely to qualify for NDIS funding.

For further detail, see NDIS List A.

If the individual is assessed as having ASD with level 1 severity (requiring some support), Asperger syndrome, atypical autism, childhood autism, or pervasive developmental disorders not meeting certain severity criteria, further assessment of functional capacity is required to determine eligibility for NDIS funding.

For further detail, see NDIS List B.

NDIS funding and support for autism

The type of support services available to those with autism are

  • School aide, tutor
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy to increase fine motor skills and ability to concentrate
  • Personal care support (help showering, toileting, dressing, eating)
  • Behavioural support (relationship building, behavioural management techniques)
  • Nutrition (diversifying eating habits)

The amount of funding and support for ASD depends on the severity of the condition.

Severity of autism

Autism is a spectrum disorder which means that there are varying levels of severity. A person can be mildly, moderately, or severely autistic. When providing a diagnosis of autism, clinicians are required to assign a level. There are three levels, which reflect the person’s ability to communicate, manage daily life, adapt to change and new situations, and expand beyond restricted interests.

Level 1 autism

Those diagnosed with level 1 autism require a low level of support

People with level 1 ASD:

  • Have difficulty initiating social interactions
  • Have organisational and planning problems which can hamper independence

Level 2 autism

Level 2 autism spectrum disorder requires substantial support

People with level 2 ASD:

  • Are capable of limited social interaction which has a specific, narrow interest
  • Perform frequent restricted/repetitive behaviours

Level 3 autism

ASD level 3 requires very substantial support

Level 3 ASD:

  • Have severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills
  • Show great distress/difficulty changing actions or focus

NDIS pathways for autism

Those over 7 years of age will access NDIS funding via the regular NDIS Pathway.

However, if your child is 0-6 years of age, they will access NDIS funding through the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) pathway. The ECEI:

  • Provides early intervention for a child with developmental delay or disability
  • Acknowledges that early intervention leads to better long-term outcomes
  • Uses a family-centred approach that supports greater inclusion in mainstream settings and builds child and family capacity
  • Connects families to services via access partners

NDIS plan goals for autism

Aligning your goals with the objectives of the NDIS is often a great place to start. The NDIS aims to support people with a disability to improve their independence, increase their participation in social and economic activities and to develop their capacity to engage with their community.

When you are developing you or your child’s personal goals, reflect on each of these NDIS objectives and consider how your goals fit within these objectives.

Want tailored advice?

For further advice on your NDIS planning meeting or goal setting, call 1300 036 028 to speak with one of our NDIS Care Advisers.