AT is equipment, devices or software that aim to make everyday tasks easier and safer for your child. Sometimes they are described as ‘aids and equipment’.
For children with developmental delay or physical or intellectual disability, AT plays an important role in their development and participation. AT may enable children to work towards their communication, mobility and independence goals. This helps with family relationships, friendships, education, play and household tasks (WHO, 2011).
Your child’s AT use may also benefit the whole family. AT can reduce the need for caregivers by increasing your child’s independence and their ability to participate in family activities.
For information on how we define, fund and make reasonable and necessary decisions about AT, please refer to Our Guideline - Assistive technology. For more detailed information, you can read Assistive technology explained .
The guides show AT supports that may be available to help your child with their communication, mobility and independence at home and in the community. AT supports may be available through your child’s NDIS plan or mainstream and community supports.
The guides also show where you can find more information to help your child. When thinking about supports that may suit your child, remember each child is different. A support that works for one child may not be right for another child.
You and your family should not feel pressured to use a particular AT if you don’t feel it is right for your child. It can help to seek independent advice when making these decisions from your:
- early childhood partner
- early childhood professionals
- organisations who support people with disabilities and their families
- peer supports
- other friends and family.
It will be helpful to think about what supports are available where you live as it can vary. You can talk with your MyNDIS contact, who is your child’s partner or planner to learn more about resources that are available in your area.
There are different ways you can support your child and their use of AT. You may find some of the tips below will work for your child and family.
- It can be difficult to learn and use a new AT. Consistent practice and persistence are keys to building confidence and self-esteem for your child and family.
- You and your child may require training to understand how and when to use your child’s AT, as well as using it safely. This is important to prevent injuries for caregivers and children (using appropriate manual handling techniques when lifting children and their AT equipment).
- Training should be provided by a qualified AT advisor or provider. AT advisors may be:
- allied health professionals. For example, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech pathologist, orthoptist, orientation and mobility specialist
- a continence nurse
- rehabilitation engineer
- AT mentor a person who provides support to make informed choices about AT and home modification needs.
- AT advisors or providers may have a specialist area or provide knowledge across many AT devices.
- As children grow and develop, their AT needs may also change. This can include adjustment of current AT (e.g. postural seating in a wheelchair), or new, additional or different equipment, devices or products.
- Your child may need help to use, apply or safely transfer in or out of AT. For example, putting on an orthosis, getting into a wheelchair, using a hoist).
- Some AT can be used on a trial basis to assess suitability. Some AT can be hired. These can be good options if you want to try a new AT or if the AT might only be useful for a short period of time.
- Access to AT often requires recommendation or reports from an AT advisor. You can ask your child’s planner if these reports are needed.
- Our Guideline - Assistive technology explains how we make decisions, the types of supports we can fund or provide through the NDIS, and supports available outside your NDIS plan.
- More information about the supports we can fund is available on the ‘Would we fund it’ website.
- NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission
- NDIS Support Coordinators
- Our Guideline - What do we mean by advice or an assessment?
- Disability Gateway has information and services for people with disability, information specific to AT. These include:
- Government programs and organisations that provide equipment (assistive technology)
- Communication aids and services
- Using technology and staying connected
- ARATA : Australian Rehabilitation & Assistive Technology Association has information about supporting and promoting best practice for rehabilitation and AT provision.
- MACA : Mobility and Accessibility for Children in Australia Ltd has information about support and vehicle restraint products (including car seats) to ensure children with disabilities and medical conditions can travel safely and comfortably in vehicles.
- AT databases: have information about all forms of AT available in Australia (and sometimes internationally), with information and links to suppliers across Australia:
- AT Chat
- Communication Hub : has information for people with communication difficulties, their communication partners, and the wider community. It highlights the importance of communication in everyday life and provides information for those with communication difficulties to empower themselves and others.
- AGOSCI : is an inclusive group focused on enhancing the participation of all people with communication disabilities. They have seminars, conferences and resources, and links to international organisations.
- Raising Children Network : has information for parents and carers that is free, reliable and scientifically validated. This information can help parents and carers keep their children healthy and developing well.
- Reimagine Australia : has information for families on early childhood supports.
We have an easy read checklist to help you think about your child’s 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 child’s early childhood partner or planner
- an appointment with our child’s provider of a support or activity.
You can also take the checklist to your meeting and fill it out together.
Your partner or planner can help you find a provider . A provider is a person, business or organisation who delivers NDIS-funded supports to participants. Providers have different areas of experience and expertise.
We have a list of providers that you can search on the Provider Finder .
Your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child may also be able to help.
It is common for families to choose different types of providers offering varied services to help meet their AT needs and goals.
These providers typically include:
- AT Advisors who can be:
- AT assessors – these are allied health professionals who have professional-level qualifications and can assess a child’s personal AT needs through an AT assessment and provide evidence to the NDIS for mid-cost and high-cost AT.
- AT mentors - these are people with lived experience of AT use and a lower level of qualification. They can provide advice about available AT that may be helpful and its use, but not an AT assessment.
- AT suppliers have staff who have knowledge about the products they supply but they may not know about other AT options.
For more information about AT under the NDIS, what families need to do, and what to be aware of when working with providers, please visit Assistive technology explained .
Choose a provider who:
- Listens and is respectful towards you and your family as the expert in your child’s life.
- Asks about your child’s interests, needs and goals.
- Involves your child in decisions about which AT they may need or want to try.
- Asks which AT your child has used in the past, as well as what did or didn’t work.
- Offers to explore what you and your child may need if you are unsure.
- Has staff with knowledge in working with children and families who use AT.
- Has experience working with children with a similar disability.
- Is suitably skilled and qualified to discuss, use or recommend AT.
Questions you can ask an assistive technology provider:
It can be useful to ask providers how they will work with your child and your family and carers. This can help you decide if they are the right provider for your child. You may have your own questions, or you can ask questions like the ones below.
Skills and experience:
- How will you support my child and family learn about which supports may be best for us, now and in the future?
- What experience do you have in working with children with my child’s disability and who use AT?
- What outcomes can this AT provide for my child and family?
Working with your child, family and carers:
How will you work with our family to meet our individual needs and build our capability?
What evidence will you use to help us decide on the best supports for our child?
Can you connect us with families of children who use AT for peer support?
How will I know if the AT we are using is supporting my child’s needs?
- How will I know if my child has outgrown the equipment or has different or new needs?
What will you do if my child is not benefiting from or reaching the expected outcomes?
What can you do to ensure the AT will be suitable for different environments that my child and family attends for example, school, home or day-care? Will you assess my child’s needs in these environments?
Where do I go if the AT needs fixing, troubleshooting or updating?
These guides are based on a scientific review of research. The research comes from:
- A review of the research evidence that looked at assistive technology interventions for supporting children with developmental delay or physical or intellectual disability with their communication needs, mobility and participation.
The NDIA did this research in 2022/23. We also talked to families and carers of NDIS participants and organisations that support people with disability. We combined this information to write the guides.
The research used to develop these guides is in the following publications:
- National Disability Insurance Agency. 2023. ‘Assistive technology interventions to support children with developmental delay or physical or intellectual disability with their communication, mobility and independence. An Evidence Review. Australia. Prepared by Armstrong A, Garrubba M, E Sandford-Morgan and D Chandrakumar.
- World Health Organisation. 2011. World report on disability. World Health Organisation, The World Bank.
This guide is designed to help you understand the range of AT supports for children with developmental delay or physical or intellectual 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 Guideline - Assistive technology.