Caring for kids with disability
Like all kids, children and young people with disability need the care of a loving adult in a safe and happy home, time with friends and access to a wide range of life experiences. There are some training programs designed specifically for carers of kids with disability; talk to your caseworker to find out how you might be able to access these.
A good start for kids with disability
At the beginning of the placement, your caseworker will give you any information they’ve gathered from the parents of the child or young person about their routines, medications, specialised equipment and educational needs, previous carers and doctors. If the child or young person is using a disability service, you may need to become involved with the service to learn more about the child’s disability.
As a carer, you may need to access additional supports. These may include respite care, specialised equipment, such as a wheelchair or lifting device, house or car modifications, or support services.
There are some training programs designed specifically for carers of children with disability; talk to your caseworker to find out how you might be able to access these.
Once the child is in your care, it can be very useful to see a paediatrician with skills in developmental paediatrics and intellectual disability. It’s also wise to get in touch with early intervention services before your child starts school; your caseworker can help you look into the services available.
Most agencies, including DCJ, can assist with:
- assessing the needs of the child or young person
- organising placements and respite services (where available)
- organising ongoing carer education and training
- making decisions about carer allowances and additional financial support
- organising support services including those provided through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
The NDIS is an Australia-wide scheme, supporting people with permanent and significant disability.
The NDIS works to connect people with disability with community and mainstream supports, and funds additional reasonable and necessary supports to help them pursue their goals, and participate in daily life. The level and type of supports that will be funded through the NDIS will depend on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)’s assessment of the individual disability support needs of each child or young person.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is the Commonwealth agency that has been set up to manage and deliver the NDIS.
If you care for a child in care with disability, speak to your caseworker for information about how to access the NDIS.
Further information can be found on the Carer guidelines page of the DCJ website. It is important that you and your caseworker work together about any NDIS/NDIA matters.
Your caseworker can provide you with information and support about how best to access practical and specialist supports you may need, what the NDIS means for you and your child and how you work together to get the best plan for your child.
Leaving care planning is extremely important for young people with disability in out of home care. We must work with the NDIS so the young person is supported well both from a mainstream and disability perspective. For further guidance see Leaving care planning and the NDIS
For more information about the NDIS and disability supports, speak with your caseworker first.
For general information about the NDIS, see their website.
Social skills for kids with disability
Kids with disability can face a range of physical, learning, behavioural and communication challenges. These challenges can make it hard to make friends and interact socially.
Friendships and social interactions help children and young people develop new skills. The more a child practises these skills and gains acceptance from peers, the more their confidence grows.
Here are some practical ways you can help develop the social skills of the child or young person in your care, keeping in mind their age and developmental capacity:
- encourage them to look at people and use basic greetings when they meet others
- model the kind of social behaviour you want to encourage, for example,listening and responding to others, using appropriate body language, starting a conversation, sharing information and dealing positively with conflict
- play with them and practise things such as sharing toys and taking turns
- if sharing is a challenge, have duplicates made of favourite toys and remember to have enough play materials for everyone to share
- when other kids are around, plan activities you know the child or young person can do confidently
- choose toys, books, videos, music, art and other materials they and other children will enjoy
- praise them when a social situation is going well by telling them they have done a good job
- notice if they’re getting tired or overwhelmed and help them manage their feelings
- don’t force them to interact if they want to be alone
- don’t overreact if they’re being ignored or left out or if they are behaving in a socially inappropriate way.