When you search for information about Therapy Assistants, there isn’t much information published by the NDIA around their use, however, there have been a number of planners and LAC’s referring to this therapy assistant role, as a method of making our funding stretch further. So if this is the expectation when therapy dollars are being allocated, let’s take a look at some ways to best utilise this role.
In the NDIS Price Guide, there are two descriptions of the ‘therapy assistant’ role. The first is in relation to Maintenance Therapy (page 52), where a person requires a “particular regime to maintain the function of a body part…Where a skilled therapist is involved in establishing a therapy program. The NDIA’s approach will include capacity building with family & carers to undertake therapy under the supervision of a skilled therapist, so that the benefit for the participant is not solely limited to therapy sessions.”
Secondly (on page 61 of the Price Guide) where Therapy Assistant is listed. Here it gets really broad and encompasses so many great possibilities.
The important things to keep in mind:
- It is a Capacity Building support. Whoever you choose to work in this role, must be implementing supports/strategies/techniques which are helping you/your child reach their plan goals. You can be creative about how & where this support happens but as long as it helps towards skill development, community engagement, and often for children – greater independence.
- It’s your choice how you manage this assistant role. Meaning you could be working with a person that’s employed by your therapist. They may decide how & when the assistant will participate in your therapy supports. Then you may leave it up to the therapist & the assistant to communicate with one another on progress – and you’d see that admin time reflected in the billing. It’s a great idea to include all these details in a service agreement or outlined in an email; so you can budget accordingly.
- OR you may search & employ your own therapy assistant. It’s up to you to arrange sufficient training; likely arranging for that assistant to accompany you on joint sessions, with the therapist. Keep in mind that not all therapists are going to be 100% onboard with working with an assistant. They may have legitimate concerns that they’re not fully-qualified or experienced enough. This is where common sense comes into play, so be realistic about what you expect the therapy assistant to do. An example – when deciding on a home therapy program for a child, think about the following –
- What’s most likely to succeed with the combination of my child’s personality, the assistants personality & in our home environment.
- Be mindful that knowledge of the child & how to best support them comes with time, not only with a full university degree. So allow time for the assistant to develop a rapport with your child, before tasking them with a folder full of therapy ideas.
- Take the lead with communication. Show your therapist & the assistant how this support will flow by setting up the channels of communication. Will it work best for have a monthly team meeting/call to catch up on progress? Will it be effective to video home sessions and send them to the therapist for feedback via email? Are there charts which the therapist needs to be filled in by the assistant to monitor things?
- Keep records. For the next plan review or audit with the NDIA, it’s a great idea to keep a clear record of supports delivered. Of course, all emails between the therapy team which outline goals, strategies and related topics. You’ll have the main documents like assessments & reports but don’t forget that photos & video footage can be valuable when advocating for future funding.
Finding a Therapy Assistant
There are more & more options emerging. You can use an online platform like HireUp, Better Caring, Homecare Heroes. You’ll need to create your own profile & then browse all the support worker profiles on there. You can connect with many Allied Health Uni Students that way. You can also post your own job advertisement on these platforms, as well as at some University Campus’
Ask Everyone!! – just keep asking lots of different people in your community – it’s amazing how many people ‘KNOW PEOPLE’. Personal referrals are by far the most effective way of finding people.
Ask an agency – Give them a call and tell them what you’re looking for.
Finally, never lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. You have choice & control as you work towards these NDIS goals.
Sarah Harvey // Plan Tracker