Social and community participation

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Who are these guides for? 

There are many supports, programs and activities to help you reach your social and community participation goals. These guides can help you learn about what they are and how they can help. These guides focus on supports for adults (over 18 years of age) who:

  • are on the autism spectrum
  • live with an intellectual disability
  • live with a psychosocial disability.

These guides may also be useful for other people. 

People use different terms to describe autism. In these guides we say autism spectrum and adults on the autism spectrum.

What topics do these guides cover?

  1. Getting ready for social and community participation : How can you get ready to participate in your community and what supports are available to build your confidence and skills.
  2. Connecting with social and community activities : Supports that can help you get involved with people and activities in the community.
  3. Staying connected with social and community activities : How you can stay connected to your social and community activities when you go through different life stages. 

How can you use the Guides?

Step 1

Read the information to learn about the supports available.

Step 2

Think about where you are in working towards your goals. You may be at the start and getting ready to participate or going through a change in your life and need help staying connected. Some guides will be better suited to you than others.

Step 3

Refer to the guides during meetings or appointments with your planner or providers.

Step 4

It’s a good idea to talk with your providers about your supports. This helps you understand your progress and outcomes. It can also be helpful to compare what different providers can offer. 

Social and community participation is about meeting people with similar interests and joining in social and community activities. It means going where others go, doing what others do, with other people and choosing activities you enjoy. Social and community participation also means different things to different people. It can include going to your local cafe, joining a netball team, bushwalking with a friend, doing a craft class, getting work experience, or volunteering.

Social and community participation is important because it can:

  • help you feel included and connected to others
  • give you opportunities to build relationships with friends
  • grow your social networks and help you feel more included
  • increase your confidence and build your ability to participate with your peers
  • help you develop skills to be more independent and feel safe in your community
  • build skills and relationships that help with getting a job
  • help you find activities you enjoy doing.

It can be good to try different activities. You may not know if you enjoy something until you try it. It may feel different at first, but with the right support and help you may find activities you enjoy. These activities can also change over time as your needs and interests change. Research shows that activities you enjoy and people who make you feel valued will give you the most benefits.

The Guides show supports that may be available to help you do things you would like. These are your goals. These supports may be available through your NDIS plan or mainstream and community supports. Mainstream and community supports are available to everyone, whether or not you have a disability. 

The Guides also show you where you can find more information. When thinking about supports that may suit you, remember a support that works for someone else may not be right for you and vice versa. The availability of supports may also vary depending on where you live.

NDIS resources

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission

Evidence about Social and Community Participation

If you want more information about social and community participation, you can talk to:

  • Family, carers, and friends
  • Your local area coordinator
  • Your NDIS planner
  • Your support coordinator or other people who support you
  • Your psychosocial recovery coach 
  • A peer support network

Other resources

  • Disability Gateway has information and services for people with disability, specific to leisure activities. These include:
    • Competitive and recreational sports
    • Community programs
    • Holidays and going out
    • Social life
  • Carer Gateway has information for carers and provides services to support carers in their caring roles.

We have an easy read checklist to help you think about your supports. You can use it to keep a record of what you have read. You can also use it to list questions you have and who can answer them. 

You can use the checklist when planning:

  • a meeting with your NDIS planner or local area coordinator (LAC)
  • an appointment with a provider of a support or activity.

You can also take the checklist to your meeting and fill it out together.

We have a list of providers you can search on the Provider Finder webpage.

A provider is a person, business or organisation who delivers NDIS-funded supports and services to participants. They have different areas of experience and knowledge so it’s important to find the right one for you.

Your NDIS planner, local area coordinator (LAC), support coordinator, psychosocial recovery coach, or other professionals can help you find a provider

What to look for in a provider

Choose a provider who:

  • Listens and is respectful towards you as the expert in your own life
  • Asks about your interests, needs and goals
  • Asks what you have enjoyed in the past, as well as what worked and didn’t work for you
  • Offers to explore what you may like if you are unsure
  • Has staff with knowledge in connecting people with community participation activities

Questions you can ask a provider

It can be useful to ask how they will work with you and your family and carers. This can help you decide if they are the right provider for you. You may have your own questions or you can ask questions like these:

Skills and experience:

  • How will you help me learn about supports that may be best for me now and in the future?
  • What experience do you have in working with people on the autism spectrum, with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities?
  • What outcomes can your supports, programs and activities provide me?

Working with you and your family and carers:

  • How will you work with me to meet my individual needs?
  • What evidence will you use to help me decide on the best ways to meet my participation needs?
  • Can you connect me with other people like me for peer support?

Delivering supports:

  • How will I know if I am benefiting from this service?
  • What will you do if I am not reaching the promised outcomes?

These guides are based on a scientific review of research. The research comes from:

  • A review that looked at interventions (supports, programs and activities) for supporting social, community and civic participation for adults (≥18 years of age) who are on the autism spectrum or who live with an intellectual or psychosocial disability.
  • A research project that looked at how NDIS participants think about community participation.

This research was done in 2021 by the NDIA Research and Evaluation Branch. 

We also talked to NDIS participants, their families and carers, and organisations that support people with disability. 
Combining research with people’s experiences helps to understand how well supports work.

The research used to develop these guides is in the following publications:

  1. National Disability Insurance Agency 2021. ‘Interventions to improve social, community & civic participation of adults on the Autism Spectrum or living with Intellectual or Psychosocial Disability: A systematic review. Australia. Prepared by M Giummarra, L O’Brian.
  2. National Disability Insurance Agency 2021. ‘Getting out into the world’: pathways to community participation and connectedness for NDIS participants with intellectual disability, on the autism spectrum and/or with psychosocial disability. Australia. Prepared by L Smith, M Bennett, B Gardner, R Morello.


This Guide is designed to help you understand the social and community participation supports that may be available to adults on the autism spectrum or living with an intellectual or psychosocial disability. It does not imply that a specific support will automatically be included in your NDIS plan. Some supports may be provided outside of the NDIS. All of the supports included in your NDIS plan must meet the reasonable and necessary criteria. You should read this Guide alongside Our Guidelines – Social and recreation support.

This page current as of
23 October 2023