Rebecca asks us to fund a smart device, such as an iPad, as her therapist has recommended a number of apps to help her manage her disability. She supports her funding request with a letter from her therapist.
Would we fund this?
No, we wouldn’t typically fund a tablet for Rebecca as it is a common day-to-day living cost for many Australians, including people with disability. There are some exceptions to this rule, but a tablet is unlikely:
- to be an extra living cost due solely and directly as a result of her disability needs
- to be a cost related to another funded support, and if it is related to another support, it’s likely to be a cost Rebecca would have anyway.
Why don’t we fund this?
Smart devices and computers are a general household appliance. Most Australian homes have them, and they are used by most of the community. A household appliance that most people are likely to have at home is a day-to-day living cost, not funded by the NDIS.
Even if Rebecca’s disability means she may benefit from the help of a smart device or personal computer, these devices are unlikely to be an extra living cost due solely and directly as a result of her disability needs. Most households have other options, such as a mobile phone or a personal computer, which would get the same result.
These are both everyday items and considered a day-to-day cost. Even if Rebecca needs the tablet because of another funded support, it’s likely to be a cost she would have anyway, because most Australian households have smart devices that can be used for this reason.
To work out whether a support is reasonable and necessary for Rebecca, we look at the information she gives us against the NDIS funding criteria.
What might we fund?
In some situations, we may fund smart devices such as tablets. Rebecca would need to give us written evidence that shows the cost of the electronic device is an extra cost that is solely and directly because of her disability needs.
For example, she needs to magnify or read out print or other images because she has a significant vision impairment, and her orthoptist or occupational therapist give evidence this is the best solution.
We may fund a tablet if Rebecca uses an alternative communication device as her only way to communicate. Rebecca’s speech pathologist will need to give her written evidence that shows it’s the most appropriate solution for her communication needs.
In these cases, the tablet is essential so Rebecca can interact with others or do daily tasks. Unlike most everyday household items Rebecca would always need it available so she can’t share it with others. We would fund the most cost effective option to meet the intended outcome.
Before Rebecca buys, rents or leases a tablet or smart device to run computer based assistive technology (even using her Low Cost AT budget) she needs to get written advice that shows it is the most appropriate solution for her.
Seven-year-old Isaac has autism spectrum disorder. His therapist recommends Isaac use a smart tablet to access apps to help him develop his skills in self-regulation, social development and independence with daily living. The therapist has tried some options with Isaac and recommended three software applications that will allow Isaac to:
- take a sensory break
- manage schedules and follow short to-do lists while at school
- improve his fine motor skills and handwriting readiness.
Isaac’s mother Anita, who is his child representative, asks us to fund an iPad and the cost of the applications. She supports her request with Isaac’s therapist’s written recommendation on apps, and information about the likely cost of an iPad and the apps.
When working out whether the funding for the iPad and apps are reasonable and necessary, the planner considers the information provided against the NDIS funding criteria. The planner looks at whether:
- Isaac needs the iPad and apps solely and directly as a result of his disability needs
- there are other options to help Isaac to manage his sensory needs, remember his daily routine and improve his fine motor and handwriting skills, for example a paper diary to manage his schedule and practice his handwriting
- the iPad and apps are best practice supports for Isaac’s needs, particularly since the therapist has tried other options, and detailed the outcome of these before recommending the apps
- the iPad is something that would be reasonable to expect his family to provide or whether it is most appropriately funded by us
- the iPad and apps are value for money when compared with cost and longevity of other items, such as diaries, written checklists or self-managed sensory exercises, which could achieve the same result.
In Isaac’s case, the planner decides the following:
- A smart device or computer is an everyday item and while Isaac may need to use a tablet more often due to his disability, he also needs it for his day-to-day schoolwork. Isaac’s school expects families to provide their own device. As such, Isaac’s need for the iPad is not solely and directly as a result of his disability needs. His school has a payment plan system for students to buy discounted iPads through a local distributor.
- The therapist has not given enough evidence to show that the handwriting app is more effective and beneficial than a written diary or the handwriting activities he does in class.
- We already fund Isaac for an occupational therapist to work on helping him manage his sensory issues. Funding an app to help him to take a sensory break would not be value for money, as the capacity building supports give Isaac the same benefit.
- Teaching students to tell the time and use a written diary is part of the school curriculum. Isaac will be taught how to do this with the other children in his class. This is considered a best practice option as an alternative to a scheduling and to-do app. Funding the app would not be value for money.
- Schools, not the NDIS, are responsible for making reasonable adjustments to personalise learning, such as improving handwriting skills. They provide educational support, including assistive technology.
The planner did not approve funding for the apps and the iPad tablet.
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