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Autism and Coronavirus (COVID-19)… The Essentials

autism coronavirus covid 19

Autism and Coronavirus (COVID-19)… The Essentials

Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, health crisis…. these are the headlines that we are hearing on repeat. We are facing very scary and confusing times. It’s difficult for us all, but even more so for individuals with autism, their parents/carers and families. The changes to routines, school closures, the impact on work, unavailability of foods/products, self-isolation, the constant overload of information….  It has thrown our community into a tailspin!

With so much uncertainty, confusion and misinformation out there at the moment we want to help our community. We’ve compiled the best autism specific resources, tools and credible information in one place to make managing life during this crisis a little easier for you and your family.

Of course, when it comes to health advice, we recommend you follow the medical experts and check both the Australian Government Department of Health  and Healthdirect regularly for updates.

We will keep adding the below content as things come to hand, and you can also follow us on our social channels for daily posts.

In the difficult weeks ahead, please look after yourselves and each other. Be compassionate, be patient and please share your toilet paper and pasta! By supporting one another, we will get through this!

The Essentials - Video Library

We’ve put together a series of videos to help address some of the most common questions raised by our community. We will keep adding to these so check back regularly for updates. If you have any particular questions or issue you need help with, please email us and we’ll put it to our brains trust.

NDIS - Changes and Updates

There are continuing changes to NDIS packages and funding flexibility for participants and their families. Here’s what we know so far (with the most recent updates listed first):

  • You can now use your NDIS funding to purchase low cost assistive technology, so you can stay connected to your services and supports. Check the Using your budget page on the NDIS website for the most frequently asked questions/answers.
  • A priority home delivery service for NDIS participants for their household groceries has been established in partnership with supermarkets. Each participant will receive a unique code via email which they can use at checkout to request priority home delivery. Full details in the NDIS press release
  • A flexible approach to using NDIS funds, including allowing people to switch between categories, reviewed on a case by case basis. The NDIS have created an information page, with videos and FAQ’s on how you can use your NDIS budget more flexibly.
  • New support items for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers are now available where a participant has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus. More information can be found here.
  • Access Request and Supporting Evidence Forms are now available on the NDIS website, to ensure people can continue to apply for funding while maintaining social distancing. You can find these here.
  • Plans will no longer end. If your plan is due to end soon, you don’t have to do anything. It will automatically be extended for a year (previously this was 28 days)
  • If you have a plan review scheduled you will be called on the phone. If you are happy you can have a new plan for up to 24 months. Read more on the NDIS ‘Your Plan’ page. 
  • Support Co-ordination has been added to core funding. If you don’t currently have support coordination in your plan but would like to utilise it, you can use your core funding to pay for a support coordinator. There are now new line items in the price guide to pay for this. More info is available here.
  • Extra 10% loading added to the prices of some NDIS services and supports for six months. A new price guide has been released to cover the new prices announced.
  • Planning meetings will no longer be held face to face, instead they will be via phone or email
  • Outreach to high risk participants to make sure they have what they need
  • Changes to NDIS cancellation policy
  • Financial assistance is being given to providers to ensure they can maintain their workforce to support participants
  • Participants impacted by Coronavirus will be prioritised, including any additional support needs
  • An action plan is being developed to ensure participants and their families continue to receive essential supports

Minister Stuart Robert has advised this is only the beginning. To keep up to date please also check the NDIS Coronavirus Information and Support page.

Also make sure you check out the ‘What happens when…’ page on the NDIS website for a list of the most commonly asked questions. Excellent info on this page!

You can find details about these announcements via the below links
Minister Stuart Robert’s media release on 21 March 2020.
COVID-19 updates 25 March 2020

NDIS QUALITY AND SAFEGUARDS COMMISSION

NDIS have released new information packs

  • Self management during COVID-19 – includes information to help self-managed participants use their NDIS plan and meet their obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic, inlcuding
  • psychosocial disability – to help people with the psychosocial disability and their carers get the most out of their NDIS plan during the pandemic.
  • telephone disability – to help you prepare for, and get the most out of your phone planning meeting.
  • mental health and well-being – to help you, your family and carers look after your mental health and well-being.

Telehealth

In order to continue to deliver therapy, services and supports many providers have moved online and are now offering telehealth sessions. These sessions can be delivered either online, via video conferencing, or via the phone.

As a result Medicare have introduced new MBS codes to support telehealth services. These include a range of services from GP consults, allied health professional services and mental health consultation. You can find a complete list of MBS Telehealth codes on the Medicare website.

Centrelink Funding

The Government has announced the second stage of the economic stimulus. Increased benefits and payments include:

  • A temporary fortnightly $550 Coronavirus Supplement from 27 April 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment
  • Extend eligibility for the first $750 Economic Support Payment to pay it from 31 March 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment on any day from 12 March to 13 April 2020
  • Expand eligibility for some payments and make them easier to claim
  • Make Crisis Payment available if you need to self-isolate, are in severe financial hardship and you can get an income support payment
  • Pay a second $750 Economic Support Payment from 13 July 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment or have an eligible concession card on 10 July 2020.

Coronavirus Supplement

The temporary Coronavirus Supplement will be a fortnightly payment if you’re an existing Centrelink customer and getting an income support payment.

You’ll automatically get the supplement if you’re getting one of these payments:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Youth Allowance for job seekers
  • Youth Allowance for students
  • Austudy for students
  • ABSTUDY for students
  • Parenting Payment
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit

The supplement will be an extra $550 a fortnight on top of your normal payment rate.

New Centrelink customers who do not have a CRN or do not already receive one of the above payments need to start their claim online via the MyGov Website. If you need to provide proof of identity this can be done over the phone, you do not need to visit Centrelink in person.

For more info please visit Australia.gov.au or servicesaustralia.gov.au

Wearing Masks

Watch Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer explaining how to wear a mask correctly.

Here are some examples of social stories for mask wearing. Kids on the Spectrum – Australian Autism Directory have developed a couple of easy to download and print social stories for mask wearing. Read more.

Every Australian Counts have some helpful resources from around the web about how and when to wear masks including some easy read fact sheets. Read more.

Harvard Health Publishing have some top tips for supporting autistic people with wearing masks and preparing for a COVID19 test

Talking to children about Coronavirus

It’s a scary and confusing time for everyone but especially for our kids, who don’t understand what’s going on. They have so many questions and fears. Talking to them and explaining what’s going on is very important to help reduce anxiety and make them feel safer. Here are some helpful resources:

Where’s all the toilet paper? – SMH article

Coronavirus Social Story – Little Puddins

Coronavirus Social Story – The Autism Partnership of Chicago

Understanding Coronavirus for the autism community

Watch the #60SecondScience episode with Andrew Whitehouse, where he explains how the current Coronavirus pandemic is impacting individuals with autism.

60 Second Science – COVID-19

Coronavirus Explained – The Growing Space

Free online activities for the family!

Let’s face it, being stuck indoors with the whole family can get boring and be difficult to manage! Below is a list of all the different free online activities you can access to help keep the family engaged and busy during these long periods of isolation, especially during the school holidays.

Taronga TV – daily live stream from Taronga Zoo featuring animal shows, zoo keeper talks, animal feeding and behind the scenes tours.

Virtual Aquarium – SeaLife Sydney are going online with daily livestreams and activity sheets, craft sheets and downloadable materials to keep the family entertained.

Online museum tours – these 12 famous world wide museums are offering free online tours.

75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World that you can visit from the comfort of your couch!

Australian Reptile Park – are offering daily livestream and educational videos. Check their facebook page for the weekly schedule of sessions.

Audible free books – Audible have released a series of kids books you can listen to for free.

National Geographic Kidsaccess to their digital edition is free for April, May and June

Minecraft Education – Minecraft have released free educational packs to keep the kids busy during isolation.

Community Shopping

COLES

Coles have reintroduced nationwide product limits as coronavirus cases surge in Victoria. In-store measures are still in place to ensure a safe environment and now offering bag packing again at the checkout. For local trading hours, deliveries and purchase limits please check online.

Visit the Coles website for the latest updates

WOOLWORTHS

Woolworths have reintroduced nationwide product limits as coronavirus cases surge in Victoria. In-store measures are still in place to ensure a safe environment and now offering bag packing again at the checkout. For local trading, deliveries and purchase limits please check online.

For the latest updates visit the Woolworths website

Last updated: 16 Sept 2020