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.
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.
What impact is the Coronavirus having on the autism community?
Supporting fussy eaters on the spectrum during the Coronavirus crisis - Part 1
Supporting fussy eaters on the spectrum during the Coronavirus crisis - Part 2
Seven ways to support children with autism during challenging times
10 ways for you and your family to keep positive during the COVID-19 pandemic... Part 1
10 ways for you and your family to keep positive during the COVID-19 pandemic... Part 2
Tips for successful telehealth sessions
COVID-19... an autistic adult's perspective
Making sense of your NDIS funding during COVID-19.
The unexpected up side of lockdown as an autism family
How I'm managing work/life balance as an autistic adult
Managing anxiety as a family during the pandemic.
Relationships & Connections for individuals on the spectrum
Helping young autistic adults stay connected during COVID-19
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!
NDIS QUALITY AND SAFEGUARDS COMMISSION
- They have issued a Participant Factsheet detailing your rights and avenues to make a provider complaint.
- They have released a fact sheet “Information for providers on the use of Personal Protective Equipment” confirming that providers and self managing participants can access the National Medical Stockpile.
- They have released a fact sheet on “Behaviour support and restrictive practices” during COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Resources for parents
Here is a list of resource articles to help parents navigate the Coronavirus crisis and support their families. (Listed in order of most recent update first)
Resources for autistic adults
Here is a list of resources to support individuals on the spectrum during the Coronavirus crisis.
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.
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 Kids – access 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 Hour
Both Woolworths and Coles supermarkets across Australia are offering a dedicated Community Shopping Hour from 7am – 8am on various weekdays.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Coles Community Hours will be for the elderly, people with a disability, their carers, friends and neighbours. You will need to present a government-issued identification card including:
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Companion Card
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
- Health Care Card
- Seniors Card
- Disability Card
Coles are also in the process of rolling out Coles Online Priority Service (COPS) to as many vulnerable customers as possible, hopefully by the end of March. They aim to ensure they can offer a good range of everyday grocery essentials with high availability to their customers who find it difficult to shop in-store. More details to come.
Visit the Coles website for the latest updates
Dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and people with a disability: 7am to 8am on Mondays and Wednesdays from Tuesday 17 March to Sunday 12 April To access the dedicated shopping hour you must have:
- A current Pensioner Concession Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card issued by the Australian Government, Department of Human Services
- A current Seniors Card issued by a State Government department
- Be aged 60 and over with valid photo identification
- Hold a companion card issued by a State Government department
- A government or council issued disability access permit
- Customers who have a disability
Companions and carers of these customers can access the dedicated shopping hour of our community, accredited ID Cards are required to be displayed for entry.
This service is not available in Woolworths Metro or Caltex Woolworths Metro.
For the latest updates visit the Woolworths website