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What kinds of programs, activities, and resources are available to children with special needs?

Helpful programs and resources for special needs families

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Do you have a special needs child? For instance, does your child have a learning, developmental, physical, or behavioural or emotional disability?

Raising a special needs child can be a major challenge. It can be a huge emotional, physical, and financial burden. It involves major sacrifices and can affect your whole family. Of course, it can also be highly rewarding.

Sometimes the right guidance can make all the difference in the world. This is where it’s important to rely on those who have experience working with children with special needs.

Below, educational experts describe programs, activities, and resources that can be helpful for a family with a child with special needs. To learn about special education in general, and view a list of special needs schools, read our comprehensive guide.

Educational experts

Jillian Roberts, professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria and founder of Family Sparks
“There are hundreds of special resources online that anyone can access and learn from. Keep in mind that some of the websites and posts on Facebook or other social media outlets are personal blogs and are generally writing about personal experiences and thoughts, which may not be grounded in research or fact. Be sure to read credible resources.

Some to check out are:

There are also lots of resources right within your own community or neighbouring communities:

  • Ask your family doctor or the psychologist you are working with for what the city or school district provides for resources and support.
  • Take adequate time to explore and read through the different ministries in the province you live in. They have an abundance of resources and can help explain the supports or benefits your child and family are entitled to and can receive. (E.G., the Ministry of Education, Ministry for Children and Families, Ministry of Social Development)
  • Research your local organizations, non-profit organizations, schools, businesses, gyms, and recreation centres for activities going on for the month or the year.
  • Many local places (listed above) host or provide support meetings or informational meetings, sport days, cooking programs, life skills development programs, and friendship days.
  • Check out local colleges or universities for programs they run or events they host throughout the year.
  • Explore the library for books, journals, articles, as well as events and programs run by the library.
  • Some professional sports teams also host large events for children with special needs and their families (e.g., Canucks Autism Network and Special Olympics Canada).”

Una Malcom, director of Appletree Learning, a personalized educational support program in Toronto, Ontario
Extracurricular activities and sports are essential. Many students with learning disabilities will have clear strengths. A child may excel in sports, or he or she may be an extremely talented debater, or perhaps a gifted artist. Schools will ideally have plenty of opportunities for students to participate in the activities in which they excel; this helps to preserve a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Joanne Foster, educational specialist, and co-author (with Dona Matthews) of Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids
“Extracurricular activities enable children to enhance their personal growth, and follow their dreams. This is true for all students. Provided that there is not overwhelming pressure, and that children do not experience excessive demands, there is much to be gained from relevant, suitable, and pleasurable activities.”

Ruth Rumack, director of Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space, a personalized educational support program, in Toronto, Ontario
“There are various kinds of educational programs helpful for the development of children with particular learning challenges. Direct instruction research-based programs such as Reading Mastery, The Wilson Reading System, Handwriting Without Tears, and JUMP Math have had positive outcomes and resulted in significant progression for students with reading, fine motor, and math challenges. Moreover, many learning specialists agree that assistive technologies can help students with a physical or cognitive challenge, and can be instrumental in supporting students in completing academic tasks.”







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