Table of Contents
This section contains some basic, useful information and links to help you find what you need in the health system, as well as some information specifically around disability and health.
The WA Health System
Western Australia’s health system is a mix of different services. Some are provided by Australian and State Governments, and some by private healthcare providers.
The Healthy WA website provides a lot of information about the different kinds of services that make up the health system in WA. They explain what these services are and give links to more information.
The link below gives you an overview of the system and covers some useful information on public and private healthcare, choosing to be a public or private patient, health insurance and different types of hospital care – inpatient or outpatient.
General Practitioners (GP)
Unless the situation is life threatening, your local doctor (GP) is the first person you should contact when your child is unwell or has a minor injury. It’s a good idea to build a relationship with a GP so that they get to know your child as a person, and understand their disability and any ongoing health conditions they may have.
Finding a GP
To find a GP in your local area use the following link and enter your postcode –
As well as going to your GP when you are sick, GPs provide some services to help you stay well, identify health problems, and manage your care. These services can include annual health assessments and GP-managed health plans.
GP Manage Health plans
People with disability are usually eligible for GP managed health plans. The GP can set up a team care approach and make referrals to other health and allied health practitioners such as therapists. You can do this even if you have therapy in your NDIS plan.
People with intellectual disability can have a full health check-up with their GP every year, with a Medicare rebate. Medicare calls this an annual “health assessment for people with an intellectual disability”.
Here is the link to information about the Medicare-covered annual health assessment:
If your child is unwell or injured, and you’re unsure what to do, you can contact HealthDirect 24 hours a day for free advice by phoning 1800 022 222. You can also visit the HealthDirect website to check symptoms, find information about health, and find a health service near you.
In an emergency, you may need to call an ambulance for your child or visit the nearest hospital Emergency Department. If you need urgent treatment for a serious injury or illness call 000 for an ambulance.
Emergency departments in public hospitals provide free emergency care to anyone who needs immediate treatment for a serious injury or illness. You don’t need an appointment to go to an emergency department. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the Perth metropolitan area, WA Health emergency department doctors and nurses are always on duty. Country hospitals and nursing posts can arrange emergency services. This link gives you the name of each Emergency Hospital and the average amount of time you need to wait to be seen by medical staff.
In Country WA, hospitals and nursing posts provide or can arrange emergency services. Ambulance services or the Royal Flying Doctor Service can also help you access these services. You can find health services information for your area by using the National Health Services Directory:
This is the link to search for your closest GP, Emergency Department, Pharmacy, Mental Health, and Hospital Service. Enter your postcode and choose the type of service you need.
Supporting Your Teen In An Emergency
Emergency visits to hospital can be very frightening for autistic children. It’s important to tell health professionals that your child is autistic, so that they can better support their needs. Some things which may help your child cope with health treatment are:
Hospital Admission Forms
You can download these forms and use when your child is going to hospital, either urgently or for a planned admission. Families can complete the forms, to be sure important information is seen by the treating professionals and is in the medical record.
Through the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) program, a child aged 0-13yrs can be referred by a paediatrician or psychiatrist to the following allied health services for a Medicare rebate:
- Up to 4 diagnostic/assessment services from psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, audiologists, optometrists, orthoptists, or physiotherapists to assist the referring Dr with diagnosis, treatment, and management.
- Up to 20 treatment services from psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, audiologists, optometrists, orthoptists, or physiotherapists (available up to age 15yrs, as long as the referral is made before the child’s 13th birthday).
These are the maximum number of services you can claim a Medicare rebate for, and don’t renew each year. You can find out more here:
Medicare also provides a Safety Net to help people with high medical costs. If your out-of-pocket medical costs reach the threshold between 1st January and 31st December each year, you will receive a higher amount back when claiming from Medicare.
Find out more here:
NDIS & Health
NDIS doesn’t cover services that are seen as the responsibility of the Health system, but there are some health-related supports that can be included in an NDIS plan, so it can be confusing and hard to work out which treatments and therapies are covered by which system.
Here is what the NDIS and Health have agreed on:
Your Rights - Health
All Australians including people with disabilities of all ages, have legal rights when it comes to health services. This is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act and also by the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.
Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights
The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights describes the rights of patients and other people using the Australian health system. These rights help to make sure that, wherever and whenever care is provided, it is of high quality and is safe. The charter applies to all health settings anywhere in Australia, including public hospitals, private hospitals, general practice, and other community environments. It allows patients, consumers, families, carers, and service providers to have a common understanding of the rights of people receiving health care.
You can find the charter here:
Here is a Guide for Patients and Carers about the charter:
Making complaints about health services in WA
You can make a complaint about health services if you’ve had your rights denied or you feel that you’ve received bad care. It’s a good idea to try first to resolve the problem with the health professional involved, but if that’s not possible, or you need some advice or help, talk to the patient liaison officer or representative at the health care service.
Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO)
You can also contact the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office. HaDSCO is a WA independent statutory authority providing a service to help you resolve complaints relating to health, disability, and mental health services. Here is information about how to make a complaint about a health service:
Care Opinion Australia
You can share your experience on the Care Opinion website. It is an independent service that aims to help make health services better. Over 50 health services and organisations are currently subscribed to Care Opinion Australia. These include hospitals and hospital networks, primary health networks, mental health services, community health centres, government departments, and other health not-for-profit organisations.
Here’s how it works:
- Go to the Care Opinion website: swanautism.org.au/care-opinion
- Share your story of using a health service
- We send your story to staff so that they can learn from it
- You might get a response directly from the health service such as an apology, an offer to discuss your complaint, or be asked to advise how to improve their service
- Your story might help staff to change services
Puberty, Sexuality & Relationships
Autism doesn’t affect when puberty starts, so you can expect your autistic child to begin to show signs at around the same age as other children. This is around 10 to 11 years for girls and 11 to 13 years for boys. While the age may be similar, an autistic child may find it more difficult and take longer to understand that their body will change during puberty, and may be worried about what is happening to them. So it’s a good idea to prepare early to help your child get used to the idea and understand the changes before they happen.
It’s important to be clear and direct about what will happen, using clear and direct communication and language your child understands. You can use visuals and social stories to explain puberty and help you answer your child’s questions.
The teenage years can be challenging for any teenager (and their parents/ carers) as they struggle to understand not only bodily changes but increased and sometimes confusing emotions and feelings. This time can be even more complicated and challenging for many autistic teens. It can be hard to know where to start with what can be difficult subjects for both teenagers and parents to think about and discuss. But there are some really good resources for parents and children on puberty, sexual development, sexuality and relationships.
Here are some links to good information and support:
SWAN has a resource library you can borrow from. Type ‘puberty’, or ‘protective behaviours’ into the search function and you’ll find dozens of resources, including some specifically for children with disabilities.
SECCA is a non-profit organisation that helps people with disabilities to learn about puberty, sexuality, relationships, sexual health and staying safe. They have developed several resources for teachers, carers, parents, professionals and trusted adults to use. Some resources can be borrowed and some you can download from their website:
Sexuality, Relationships and Your Rights
This is a comprehensive resource produced by SECCA. SWAN has partnered with SECCA to make hard copies available in the south west of WA; contact us to get your copy.
You can also download it free here:
SECCA have developed an app on relationships and sexuality education for people of all ages and abilities. It has in-built lesson plans on a wide range of topics and over 2000 images, but is fully customisable for each individual, including the ability to upload your own images. You can find it here:
Raising Children Network
Sexuality and Relationships: Teenagers with autism
Staying Safe - Protective Behaviours
Protective behaviours are life and personal safety skills to help children, young people and adults keep themselves safe. It’s important for all children to learn protective behaviours. It’s especially important for children with disabilities who may be more vulnerable for reasons including communication difficulties and bullying.
Starting early is important in keeping children safe. For example, teaching kids the correct names for body parts can help them understand and communicate about what is ok and what is not ok when it comes to their rights over their own bodies. Schools include protective behaviours education in the curriculum, and teachers are trained to provide a safe environment and to recognise and support children who may not be safe. You can find out more about protective behaviours here:
WA Child Safety Services
WA Child Safety Services provides child safety education, including the Protective Behaviours program. Their workshops and training educate and empower children and young people, and help parents, educators, and other professionals create safer communities.
They have a range of other resources you can download free from their website.
‘Talk soon. Talk often’ is a comprehensive and practical guide for parents of children of all ages.
SWAN have print copies of this booklet available for free in our Busselton and Bunbury offices, as well as copies of ‘Relationships, sex and other stuff’, and the combined book ‘Girls & Puberty / Boys & Puberty’.
Please email email@example.com to request a copy of these resources.
Cyber safety and bullying
Most of us use the internet regularly for staying in touch, finding and sharing information, learning, creating and doing our banking and shopping. It’s how young people stay in touch with their friends and keep up with what’s happening. There are so many positives, but also many things that can go wrong. Unfortunately, as well as general risks such as financial scams, young people are specifically targeted online by predators due to their inexperience. Teenagers who are autistic may experience additional risks when they are using the internet if they have difficulty with understanding and our children to stay safe online. This includes making sure they have the right information to help them make the right choices, and being there to support them.
Online bullying is sadly common, and it can have a devastating impact on young people. Known as Cyberbullying, this can include sending abusive messages, hurtful images or videos, nasty online gossip, tricking, excluding or humiliating people. Autistic teenagers may find they are more likely to be targeted, so it’s vital that parents understand this kind of behaviour and can support their children to avoid it and manage any situations that occur.
Here are some links to good information and support to help your child be safe online:
This easy to navigate website has very comprehensive and readable information for children, young people, parents and educators and other community members. It covers all the key issues about online safety, what to do and how to get help.
Here is their Easy English guide to being safe online:
Think U Know
Information resources and training on staying safe online.
Easy Read guide to staying safe online:
Down Syndrome Australia
‘Social Media and Online Safety’ is a Plain English guide on staying safe when using the internet. It includes information about using social media, as well as online services such as online shopping, banking and dating. There is also information on recognising and staying safe regarding cyber bullying, cybercrime, grooming and personal sexual content.