Not dumb questions at all it was all new to us all at some point!
We managed to get a spot for her formal diagnostic assessment through the Child Development Unit at our local hospital. We had to wait about 8 months but it can be significantly longer than that (depends on your local wait lists).
We had her doing OT and ST in the meantime, so weren't losing time in terms of early intervention, using private health cover and mental health care plan/and there's some other plan that gives you 5 visits (so 15 all up). We'd already hit the safety net though so we pretty much got 95% or so of the session costs back.
After diagnosis (1 year ago) we were approved for Helping Children with Autism package which is $12,000 to spend before they turn 7. But are now transitioning to NDIS which is an annual assessment of needs and funding to support your annual goals.
With the diagnosis child development services at the hospital got all our historic reports, letters from developmental paeds etc and spoke to her daycare, OT etc to get a background from which they formed their diagnosis. The more info you can give them the better. Particularly if it's subtle things like sensory issues you are working on. When they do their couple of hour assessment, a lot of that may not come through and that may leave you without the diagnosis/funding. To be honest if we had to rely on the assessment on the day only I'm sure we wouldn't have been diagnosed as my DD 'performed' the best she has in a long time on the day - she really clicked with their psychologist and was in fine form on all fronts!
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