Online Functional Assessments FAQ

Cassandra Doyle, Occupational Therapist

What is a functional assessment?

A functional assessment is used to provide a detailed overview of your functional strengths and weaknesses, and your care needs. The assessment will typically look at your communication skills, social skills, learning ability, mobility, self-care, and self management skills. As there is a lot to cover, the assessment may happen over a few sessions. A report will be provided to summarise the assessment findings and recommendations. The report may make recommendations about equipment,  home modifications, or therapy input that could improve your independence and autonomy. We may also make recommendations relating to support worker hours and the need for other services (e.g. physiotherapy). 

When would you need a functional assessment?

We provide functional assessments for clients already on the NDIS, and for these seeking to apply to the NDIS. 

As a private client (not NDIS funded), a functional assessment can provide further information to the NDIS about the impact of your disability. The assessment findings and recommendations can advocate for the support you are likely to need funded. If you are accepted onto the NDIS, the occupational therapy recommendations can help you discuss your needs with the person developing your plan. 

As an existing NDIS client, a functional assessment may be used for a variety of purposes. If a participant feels their NDIS plan isn’t meeting their goals and needs they may request a functional assessment to provide greater detail to NDIS.

Below are some common reasons NDIS participants request a functional assessment:

  • To assess and report on changes to functioning, such a significant decline in mobility that impacts the level of care you need.
  • To provide NDIS, and any other relevant people (support coordinator, allied health, housing provider etc) with further information on your care needs, to better support you.
  • To advocate for further funding in a new plan period, based on a detailed overview of your support needs and goals.

Is a functional assessment the same as a functional capacity assessment?

Yes, the two are used interchangeably here at Umbo. They both refer to a detailed assessment and report writing.

Can a functional assessment be done online?

Yes! Telehealth allows Umbo to provide services to clients that otherwise wouldn’t have timely access to therapists. Our therapists are experienced using telehealth services to provide assessments and complete reports remotely. 

Is it as accurate when it is done online?

There are many ways information can be collected using telehealth and online, increasing the accuracy of the assessments and therapist observations. For example:

  • Some assessments, including questionnaire style assessments, can easily be facilitated online. 
  • Observation based assessments will rely more on virtual (Zoom) meetings, videos and photos, as well as input from others in your care team. 
  • Taking photos of your home environment can be useful if home access is an issue.
  • Using your smartphone or tablet to take recordings, as discussed with your therapist. This could include recording your walking, transfers, and any functional tasks (like making a cup of tea).
  • Your therapist can also work alongside other professionals who see you in person. You may have an in-person physio or home visiting support workers who can provide further information. 

Are there any parts that can’t be done online?

Some functional tasks may not be practical to observe online (for example, catching a bus by yourself), or any task that may put your safety at risk (e.g. cooking without anybody else home when you’ve previously had accidents in the kitchen).

We use a variety of methods to collect information for a functional assessment. If we cannot observe something specifically, we may still be able to comment on the task through information you share with us, and from input with others in your care team (with your consent). 

What types of disabilities can a functional assessment be done online for?

Most disabilities, and their associated functional impairments, can be assessed online. At Umbo, we work with people of all different ages (children to older adults). 

Some of the disabilities we see include:

  • Cognitive impairment (Stroke, Acquired Brain Injury, Learning Disability, and more)
  • Physical disability (Spinal cord injuries, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy and more)
  • Psychosocial disability (Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder and more)
  • Mental health (Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, and more)
  • Neurological disorders (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Neurodiverse individuals (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder) 

Can I submit an online assessment to apply for the NDIS?

Yes! Please ensure you have also completed the other required paperwork for your NDIS application. The occupational therapy functional assessment report can supplement your application by providing significantly more detail on your disability and care needs.

Can I submit an online assessment as part of my NDIS plan review?

Yes, we commonly see clients wanting a functional assessment to help NDIS understand their disability and care needs better. The assessment and recommendations can help advocate for what you need in their next plan review to meet your goals. Please allow adequate time before your plan review date for the Occupational Therapist to complete the assessment and report. 

Want to know more about what happens during an online functional assessment with Umbo?
See our article What happens in an online functional assessment?