The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides funding to help people with disabilities to access the treatments and supports they need. Young people are often not thought of as needing this kind of help, but in reality companies such as Youth Living Skills provide a hugely valuable service in helping children and teenagers with physical and cognitive disabilities to live as “normal” a life as possible.
As children with disabilities are growing it is vital to get them therapy in order to minimise the impact of these issues. This is particularly true of children with cognitive abnormalities such as autism, as their brains are still developing and so therapies can have a lasting impact that dramatically improve their odds of living a functional, relatively independent life and being able to work.
Occupational therapy is one treatment that is particularly important for young people with disabilities. It essentially involves working with the child at home, in school and out in the community in order to help them to learn how to perform their daily activities themselves, with less and less help required from parents, teachers and the therapist.
This is done through help in developing motor skills (such as writing and typing), practicing cognitive skills such as budgeting and shopping and potentially changing the environment to make life easier (for example, by installing bars on the wall to make it easier to get in and out of bed). The children are also helped to learn how to socialise and practice basic interpersonal skills.
Often children with cognitive or developmental problems need help learning how to speak, and someone to practice these skills with. Speech therapists also help to diagnose and manage issues with listening, non-verbal communication problems and social deficits.
Communication problems can stem from a number of causes, including autism and brain injury. If untreated it can severely impede a child’s life – obviously, if they can’t communicate then they also can’t learn properly, socialise or, eventually, work. The NDIS provides funding for speech therapy for children and teenagers who need it.
Psychologists are very helpful as a support for young people with disabilities and their family. They are able to come up with overall strategies for providing therapy and finding the experts that can offer the best help. They are also able to help children and (particularly) teenagers through emotional and behavioural difficulties that can be not directly linked to the disability, such as depression and anxiety.
The emotional side of things is often neglected in therapies for disabled children, even though having a developmental or cognitive disorder can be very hard on the child and their family. Often the child will have to deal with social isolation and a general feeling of being different in addition to their disorder. This is why the NDIS will fund some psychological treatment.