Table of Contents
When you have children, it’s good to know how the health system works before you need it urgently. 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)
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.
Talk to your GP about regular health checks for your child and any Medicare funded health and allied health programs they are entitled to contact your private health insurance provider (if applicable). Find out which services you are covered for such as occupational therapy, speech pathology, psychology, physiotherapy as applicable.
GP Managed 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 Child In An Emergency - Checklist
Emergency visits to hospital can be very frightening for young 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:
- Bringing a comfort item with you, if you have time.
- If your child uses a communication system, bring it with you.
- Asking ambulance staff to turn internal lights and sirens off (if appropriate).
- Ask emergency department staff for a separate room (if available), and for the lights to be dimmed.
- Ask medical staff to demonstrate medical treatments on mum, dad, or a toy, to help your child understand what will be done to them.
- Use your smart phone to search for videos or social stories about medical procedures, to help your child understand what will happen. Make sure that you watch any videos first, to make sure they are helpful rather than scary.
- Ask medical staff to carefully explain to your child what will be done to them, before doing it.
- Take snacks that your child likes in case they get hungry (just check with emergency department staff that its ok to eat first).
- Activities to keep them occupied – books, games etc.
- Charging cords for any electrical devices (i.e., iPad, phone).
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:
Patient Opinion Australia
You can share your experience on the Patient 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 Patient 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 Patient 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
Autism doesn’t affect when puberty starts, so you can expect your 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. Genetics play a part, so if older siblings or other family members started puberty early, you will need to start preparing your child for puberty as early as possible.
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. From mid primary school is a good time to begin to talk about what will happen. Each child is different, but you will know if there are individual factors that will influence how and when you help your child to understand and manage the changes.
It’s important to be clear and direct about what will happen, using communication and language your child understands while still using correct terminology including for body parts. You can use visuals and social stories to explain puberty and help you answer your child’s questions.
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 is 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 bout 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 some information and support for parents on puberty, sexual development and protective behaviours here:
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:
SECCA also provide individualised counselling in Bunbury which can be funded by NDIS, and have developed a free App: SECCA App
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.