24 items to buy with NDIS Core Supports to meet your goals

If you have Core Supports in your NDIS budget, you may be wondering how to use your funds for the most benefit of your autistic child. Your funding should support your NDIS goals, whether sensory, social, regulation, diet or sleep related, or about building independence. Here’s 24 items to buy with NDIS Core Supports to meet your goals.

Consider your NDIS goals

Goals for autistic children may include finding supports for

  • managing sensory overload or providing a regular sensory diet
  • teaching social skills and building skills in understanding people and social thinking
  • managing issues with sleep, diet, toileting or other daily self care
  • building independence with managing time, alarms and transitions

Sensory supports to buy with NDIS Core Supports

Living in a world designed for and catering for neurotypicals can be tough on neurodivergents. There’s so much noise, light, and other stimuli that make life overwhelming due to different sensory processing. Because most schools struggle to re-design their classrooms to make neurodivergent-friendly sensory environments, buying sensory-limiting items may be necessary. (Although, totally suggest to your school that they conduct an environmental audit too!)

1. Noise cancelling headphones or Ear muffs

Many environments can be super loud. Noise cancelling headphones or ear muffs for kids can reduce the ambient noise and make it more bearable. To quiet the noisy world try:

Ems for Kids make earmuffs for babies, kids, and even audio headphones with some noise limiting for kids and teens.

Banz Carewear for kids also make earmuffs in bright colours and designs for babies and kids.

Moki make coloured active noise cancelling wireless headphones for kids, as do JBL that are reasonably priced. These are our go-to options for primary school kids to take to school.

For older kids or adults, Loop earplugs can provide enough quiet to be able to focus and not be overwhelmed by background noise in classrooms. These are in ear, not over ear, which may make them tricky for smaller kids. They are discrete, come in different colours, and kid’s versions with smaller ear tips for 6+ years of age. Loop earplugs have special versions for sleep (quiet: good if your child needs quiet to settle or wakes easily), for everyday (engage: good for cutting out background noise in classrooms, or just to dim the noise of loud children), and a switch version that allows you to alter the level of noise reduction from 17-25 decibels.

2. Coloured glasses for light sensitivity

If your child experiences light sensitivity, prefers dark places, or has a sensory sensitivity to certain colours, coloured glasses may help.

Tinted lenses on glasses can mute the saturation of colours. Looking at the world with a tint of your favourite colour can be calming. 8 different coloured glasses can be found here, and dark polarised sunglasses for babies through to kids may also help mute the world while protecting eyes.

Items to buy for boosting a sensory diet

Sometimes, rather than removing sensory input, we want to give more sensory input for sensory seeking children. If a child struggles to sit still, has trouble with interoception, or is constantly moving, sensory items may help.

3. Chair cushions for sitting

Cushions, such as the Senseez vibrating cushion, that provide sensory input through vibrating, having little bumps on them, or allowing a wobble, can help a child sit long enough to eat at the dinner table! Alternatively, you can also get wedge shaped chair cushions to provide a non-flat surface to sit on, that positions the body closer to the table.

4. Wobble chair or other seating

At school, a wobble chair like a Hokki stool or other seating may help give gross motor sensory input while not being too distracting to others. You can also get stools, sensory footrests or foot pods, and fit balls (Swiss balls) as alternative seating that allows movement.

5. Sensory toys such as stretch bands, fidgets, calm jars

Fidgets are everywhere these days, and as such you may have trouble using NDIS funding for an item that almost everybody has at home. However, there are fidgets and sensory toys that are more targeted at neurodivergent children. Look for ‘fidgets’ that can do double duty in giving sensory input AND help with emotional regulation. Think calm jars (or calm down bottles) or body cushions. Or, think about fidgets that can also meet low motor tone goals such as stretch bands or resistance bands. Support local and shop online at Shelley’s Sensory Shop.

6. Sensory diet items such as trampoline, hopper or wobble board

For children that are sensory seeking, whole body movement is important. If you don’t live near a park, or can’t always get outside due to weather, consider indoor items for establishing a sensory diet. For inside, consider mini-trampolines, lycra tunnels, peanut balls, pod swings, scooter boards, stepping stones and wobble boards. For outside, think hoppers/hoppit bouncers, nest swings, and big trampolines. Some kids we know need 2 hours of trampolining every night to be calm and regulated enough to get through the day. So consider how you can facilitate a sensory diet if it’s one of your goals!

7. Sensory clothing

No, sensory clothing isn’t code word for a horse hair shirt. You can get tag and seam free clothing for kids that are sensitive to those sensations on their skin. In addition, seamless compression undergarments like shorts, singlets and socks (from Jettproof, for example) can be helpful. For kids that find themselves disregulated often, afloat in a world of overwhelming sensations, compression clothing can help. Compression clothing helps provide constant sensory input and provides calming throughout the day.

8. Pencil grips for low muscle tone

We don’t often think about the sense of touch required to hold a pencil and write. But some children have low muscle tone that impacts their fine motor skills. This can make early years schooling painful with all the colouring, handwriting and cutting out. Our autistic son refuses to cut out with scissors because he gets so fatigued, and frustrated that he can’t cut a neat line. You can get pencil grips for low muscle tone, as well as special shaped pencils in a wishbone shape. For cutting, you can get special easy grip scissors with a spring loop.

9. Chew toys for sensory input

Not every child needs the same sensory input. Some, like our daughter, seek constant mouth stimulation. They always need to be sucking or chewing on something. Chew toys, often made from silicone, can provide the sensory input required. And then they won’t be out running around trying to bite other children. Win!

10. Snuggle sacks and sensory compression sheets

For daytime, lycra or spandex snuggle sacks can provide a safe place to hide and sensory input. At night, compression bedsheets can help calm overstimulated nervous systems by providing even, deep pressure. With 73% of autistic children experiencing sleep disturbances, providing a sense of touch can be calming and promote better sleep and relaxation.

Teaching Social Skills and learning more about autism

11. Books for parent reference

As a parent, you need as much support and knowledge as your child in navigating autism. If a therapist recommends a book for you to learn more about an aspect, get it! You may find yourself learning lots and becoming an armchair expert in brain development, psychology, social thinking, communication and regulation. We have a list of reference books for adults who want to learn more. Also consider workshops and seminars so you can learn face-to-face.

12. Books for kids to read and learn from

Often therapists will use books to teach concepts to kids. They may recommend you get a copy of some of them so you can continue the support at home. Books for kids about social thinking, parts of the brain like the amygdala, or just affirming books that say neurodiversity is okay. We have a list of some books for kids that might be helpful here.

13. Emotion cards

Understanding facial expressions and reading emotions can be tricky for autistic kids. This can make social play and communication difficult. Photo cards with different facial expressions and emotions can be used to develop knowledge of non-verbal communication. You can play games with the cards, or just use them as flash cards for identifying emotions on a feelings wheel.

Daily self-care items to buy with NDIS Core Supports

If independence and self-care is low on the list of skills, consider supports for daily self-care. Within that, we’re including sleep, eating and toileting as the big three. Sleep is essential and happens every night (or, doesn’t happen, in the case of sleep disturbances). Autistic children can have troubles switching off and going to sleep, and also trouble settling after waking at night. Eating, especially if there are sensory sensitivities or a restrictive beige diet, can also be troublesome. Some occupational therapists may recommend a neutral position chair for feeding, or other equipment to enable children to participate in sensory exploration of food. Finally, toileting accidents due to low interoception can be messy and embarrassing. Heavy plastic bed and pillow liners can make nighttime easier. Continence products such as reusable leak-proof undies or disposable nappies can help for accidents in daytime.

14. Weighted blankets and toys for sleep

We mentioned sensory compression sheets in #10. You can also get weighted blankets and weighted toys for sleep. In winter, our kids love having heavy piles of blankets over them. And our son won’t go to sleep without his wheat bag heated up, on all but the hottest summer nights.

15. Eating/feeding chair for feeding

The classic Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair helps kids get closer to the table and be at the right height to eat. This chair is often recommended by feeding occupational therapists.

16. Supplements

Say there are feeding issues, or restrictive beige diet, and you’re worried about nutrition. You could use the Core Supports for nutritionally balanced supplements or meal replacements. Make sure it meets a specific goal in your plan, and has the support of your GP.

17. Continence products such as undies

Kids toilet training and incontinence can be stressful, especially when you are dealing with accidents in pre-teen, teen or adult years. Nappies in store are only in baby sizes, so consider reusable products such as leak-proof undies, from kids through to adult.

18. Plastic bed sheets and continence products

From bed pads through to heavy duty bed protection, if it’s what you need, you can’t live without it.

19. Consumables related to continence such as nappies

Core Supports funding provides for consumables too. If you need disposable nappies, you can fund them.

Items to buy to build independence

The end goal of all this is to have happy kids who can be as independent as possible. Building skills in being able to be independent is essential. It’s also scary sending them off to school to be ‘on their own’ for a whole day without you helping and giving reminders. Here are some items that help build kid’s own ability to do things themselves.

20. Special feeding tools such as safe knives

Items include special shaped cutlery, feeding bowls, segmented plates to keep food separate, safe knives to practice touching and cutting food.

21. Smart watches

Even a basic tracker watch can make a huge difference to independence – a kids’ fitbit like a vivofit jnr or similar. Our kids use theirs to give them important reminders, like timed toileting throughout the day. There are also alarms with reminders not to forget things (support with organisation and executive function). And we have alarms to say when it’s bed time. The watch also has a step counter. This encourages more physical activity in an otherwise very sedentary child. The requirement to meet 10,000 steps before any screen time helps! The watch has also helped us track sleep to know how much, how many night wakings, and when he was waking up.

22. Tablet and technologies for assistance 

Tablets and other technologies can provide support with communication. Apps can provide organisational support and calming. If it fits your goals, technology items could be funded with Core Supports.

23. Timers

If transitions are tough, consider timers. You can get sand timers, visual timers, countdown timers…

Other items to buy with NDIS Core Supports

If you’re still wondering what else could support your goals, consider

24. Doubles for other carers or school

If something works brilliantly, consider getting multiples. Not only in case one gets lost, but if you want to continue the same support with an external carer or even school.

BONUS. NDIS Balance Planner

And of course, don’t forget the NDIS Balance Planner to help you juggle appointment times, payments, supports, and balance mental health for the ultimate support in your handbag!

Conclusion: items to buy with NDIS Core Supports budget line

Think carefully about your NDIS Plan goals. Think about what you need for support in terms of sensory, self-care, knowledge, consumables and building independence. And match your autistic needs with the goals in your plan.

This is the third post in the Navigating the NDIS series.

Also see:

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