Special Needs/Disability

A child with a disability or challenging behaviour may need extra support and resources to overcome daily challenges. Visit our Library for annotated bibliography of books that may be of interest to parents of children with disabilities.

Physical Disabilities

A physical disability can be sensory-based, such as a visual or hearing impairment, or motor-based, such as the reduced use of a limb.

Mental Disabilities

The term ‘mental disabilities’ encompasses many disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome and Rett syndrome.

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a disorder that affects the acquisition, retention, understanding, organization or use of verbal and/or non-verbal information.

Challenging Behaviours

A challenging behaviour is any behaviour that interferes with a child’s learning, development, or success at play; is harmful to the child, other children, or adults; or puts a child at high risk for later social problems or school failure. Parenting or teaching a child with difficult behaviours is a challenge, but it is one that can be overcome with the appropriate strategies.

Community Resources

Adventure Place Child and Family Centre

35 Calico Drive, North York: 416-744-7650
Services are designed for children (birth to 6 years) with cognitive, social, emotional and/or behavioural needs, including autism, pervasive developmental disorders, communication disorders, attention deficit disorders and learning disabilities, as well as children who are at risk for developing disabilities. The centre operates as a child and family early intervention centre, with day treatment and outreach services. Other services provided include: assessment and services coordination; individual, family, and couple counselling; speech therapy; education planning; in-home programming with parent participation; parent education and support groups; and community development in high risk areas.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national grassroots, peer support organization that comprises Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted and our supporters from the public at large.

Aptus Centre for Treatment

40 Samor Road, Toronto; 416-633-5775
This centre provides assistance to children who have a dual diagnosis of developmental disabilities and emotional/psychiatric disorders. Programs include a Children’s Day Program and a Children’s Treatment Residential Program.

Aspergers Society of Ontario

The ASO provides education, resources and support to individuals with Aspergers Syndrome (AS), their families, educators, medical and mental health professionals, employers, government and the community, to enable individuals with AS to realize their potential as fully contributing members of their community.

Autism Ontario

Autism Ontario is a not-for-profit charitable organization founded in 1973 and is a strong voice for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The organization has chapters serving almost every corner of the province. Each chapter is run by dedicated volunteers and local chapter leadership councils. These volunteers organize and support parent to parent contact, provide official SEAC representation for ASD to boards of education, camps and public awareness forums.

Child Development Institute

197 Euclid Avenue; 416-603-1827
Services are designed for children (birth to 6 years) with emotional, behavioural, or developmental difficulties and their families. The centre operates as a children’s mental health centre, providing psychological and psychiatric assessment. Other services provided include: individual, group, and family counseling; training, consultation, and support for other agencies, including child care centres; early intervention and day treatment in conjunction with the Toronto District School Board; speech pathology services; specialized counseling for Portuguese and Chinese families; and outreach counseling for women with young children living in downtown shelters.

Integra Program

25 Imperial Street; 416-486-8055
A program of the Child Development Institute geared to children and youth (8 to 18 years) who are dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities.

COTA: Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services

700 Lawrence Avenue West, Suite 362; 416-785-8797
This centre provides a comprehensive range of client-centered services, including treatment and rehabilitation services for children with physical and developmental problems, through the home or through community visits. Referrals are accepted from individuals, family members, Local Health Integration Networks (LIHNs), service providers, health and social service agencies, as well as employers and private agencies.

Easter Seals Ontario

1185 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 706; 416-421-8377
This organization provides a wide range of services for children and young adults with physical disabilities, including: parent support groups, financial assistance, advocacy, information and summer camps.

Erinoak: Serving Young People with Physical Disabilities

Located in Oakville and Mississauga, the mission of Erinoak is to support children and youth with physical, developmental and communication disabilities. By meeting the challenges of their diverse needs, Erinoak will assist clients and their families to reach optimal levels of independence, health and well-being. A comprehensive range of clinical services and family supports is provided to children and youth with multiple disabilities, complex disorders and speech delay living in Halton, Peel and, in some cases, Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin.

Etobicoke Children’s Centre

65 Hartsdale Drive, Etobicoke
416-240-1111 (intake at extension 234)
Services are designed for children (birth to 12 years) with emotional, behavioural, and developmental problems (including autism), and their families; children with significant developmental or physical handicaps are directed to other services. This centre operates as a mental health centre and provides assessment, treatment, and consultation. Other services provided include: outpatient counselling; individual child therapy, play therapy, case management, aftercare, family therapy/education, and referrals; day treatment service; milieu therapy for children who cannot attend community schools because of emotional and behavioural problems; occupational therapy (resource not actual therapy); and a Consultation and Support Team (CAST), which provides early intervention and consultation in schools.

Family Service Toronto

355 Church Street; 416-595-9230
This centre serves anyone living or working in the City of Toronto, regardless of age, cultural background, race or sexual orientation, including children, particularly individuals and families with low incomes in need.

A program for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families provides support, counselling, assistance with planning and facilitating access to resources. Call 416-971-6326 for more information.

Geneva Centre for Autism 

250 Davisville Avenue, Suite 200; 416-322-7877
Email: info@autism.net
Clinical services are available to children and youth up to 18 years who have been diagnosed as having pervasive developmental disorders, primarily autism. Training, resources and support are also available to parents and siblings. Empowers individuals with autism and other related disorders to fully participate in their communities.

George Hull Centre for Children and Families 

600 The East Mall, 3rd Floor, Etobicoke; 416-622-8833
Services are designed for children and youth (birth to 18 years) with behavioural, emotional, psychiatric, or family and interpersonal problems. This centre operates as a community based children’s mental health centre, with resource programs in several locations. Other services provided include: prevention and early intervention services, as well as crisis intervention services. There is also a Disruptive Behaviours Disorder Clinic, providing multidisciplinary assessment, treatment recommendations, and groups for parents and children.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

150 Kilgour Road, Toronto; 416-425-6220

This centre is Ontario’s largest facility for young people (from birth to 19 years) with disabilities, specializing in family-centred rehabilitation and habilitation, advocacy, education and research. Services offered by this centre include: chronic care, Neurorehabilitation Program, Neurodevelopmental Program, Musculoskeletal Program, therapeutic recreation, community outreach, art therapy, life skills, school health support and a summer camp. The DiscoverAbility program provides support and consultation for youth aged 16 to 21 with a physical disability, providing support for the transition to postsecondary school and information on career planning and employment readiness. A medical referral is required in order to apply for these services.

Kayla’s Children Centre

36 Atkinson Avenue
Thornhill, Ontario L4J 8C9

The Kayla’s Children Centre’s mission is to provide high-quality, cutting-edge educational, therapeutic, and recreational programs for infants, children, and teens with disabilities, and to assist their families by offering support and respite. The Centre embraces children of all abilities, religious affiliations, and needs, and is rich in Jewish education and tradition.


150 Kilgour Road; 416-425-6220
The LIFEspan service was developed jointly by Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Toronto Rehab and is designed to help youth and young adults with childhood-onset disabilities to successfully transfer from the pediatric rehabilitation system to the adult health-care system.

The LIFEspan service provides support and education to achieve good long-term health and wellness. The clinic at Holland Bloorview focuses on helping young adults to prepare for the transfer to adult health care. The adult clinic at Toronto Rehab provides a single point of access for life-long, comprehensive and co-ordinated rehabilitation services.

Services can include assessment, consultation and intervention from various disciplines including physiatry, nurse practitioner, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work, speech-language pathology, youth facilitator and life skills.

Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE/UT): Psychology Clinic

252 Bloor Street West, Suite 7-296; 416-978-0620
Services are designed for children with learning and/or academic and/or social and emotional problems. No referral is required. The services provided include assessment services and therapeutic services.

Ontario March of Dimes

10 Overlea Boulevard; 416-425-3463; Toll Free 1-800-263-3463
This organization provides a wide range of services across the province to enhance the independence and community participation of people with physical disabilities. PACE Children’s Program organizes and operates programs in communities across the province for children with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, acquired brain injury, spina bifida and other motor based conditions. Each four-week camp offers an intensive therapeutic program for children aged 3 to 13 years. Special camps and programs are also offered by some chapters.

Strides Toronto

325 Milner Drive, Suite 110, Scarborough; 416-321-5464

Strides Toronto provides a wide range of exceptional programs and services to help clients and their families to achieve their personal best. The agency supports clients from the pre-natal stage to age 29 and their families. Their work helps to strengthen their social and emotional well-being, move forward through adversity and develop their abilities and skills to reach their full potential. Strides Toronto is a multi-service agency addressing the needs of children, youth, their parents and families. We are located in east Toronto and our services are predominately provided in the communities of East York and Scarborough.

Support for Parents

ARCH Disability Law Centre

416-482-8255; TDD 416-482-1254
This centre works to ensure that issues concerning persons with mental and physical disabilities are addressed and met, thereby assisting the process of complete social integration. Services include: representing clients in precedent-setting cases; working to ensure disabled people receive quality legal representation; providing legal education and consultation to legal clinics and the legal profession; serving as a legal resource to its member organizations; sourcing information regarding the rights of disabled people; and offering a speakers bureau and workshops.

Association for the Neurologically Disabled of Canada

416-244-1992; Toll Free 1-800-561-1497
A Canadian non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing functional rehabilitation programs to individuals with non-progressive neurological disabilities.

Centennial Infant and Child Centre

An organization providing family support and programming to those with children (birth to 4 years) who have been diagnosed as developmentally delayed (Down syndrome and other chromosome abnormalities; cerebral palsy and other motor delays; cognitive, neurological, visual and auditory impairments).

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

416-599-2458; TTY 416-599-5077
This organization helps people with disabilities live independently in the community. Services include: information and referral; independent living skills training; peer support; public education; Direct Funding Self-Managed Attendant Service Program; parents with disabilities support network; employment and housing resources; attendant registry; and the Project Information Centre. Membership fees are $10.00 for individuals, $50.00 for organizations.

Inclusion Canada

A national association working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families.

Home & Community Care Support Services

Home & Community Care Support Services, a government agency, provides support services in homes and in schools for children with disabilities and their families.

Circle of Care

The goal of this agency is to make daily living easier, simpler and more meaningful. Circle of Care provides social work, home support, respite care and volunteer services for children with disabilities (developmental or physical).

Easter Seals Ontario

416-421-8377; Toll Free 1-800-668-6252
An organization for children with physical disabilities and their families, including support programs for parents and financial assistance.

Extend-A-Family: Building An Inclusive Community

This service provides support in developing meaningful relationships, community connections and networks of support for families of children with disabilities.

Family Service Toronto

The Counseling and Support for Individuals, Couples, and Families can be reached at 416-595-9618. This service provides counselling and educational programs for those seeking support in dealing with relationships and family problems, parenting, depression, anxiety, job loss, separation, divorce and new relationships, sexual abuse, childhood trauma, life transitions, and other issues.

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

416-929-4311; Toll Free 1-800-387-0619
This organization provides guidance to parents and persons with learning disabilities in order to assist them in understanding and coping with learning difficulties. The LDAO Resource Directory of services for persons with learning disabilities is available in print and on the website.

Macaulay Child Development Centre

Family support, early intervention and prevention services strengthen the capacity of parents and caregivers to promote the development of children. They facilitate the early identification of disabilities. This organization provides family resource programs, parent support and leadership and a community parent program which provides in-home support to high need families with young children (birth to 6 years).

Ontario Association for Families of Children with Communication Disorders

Provides support to families of children with communication disorders. Offers family support groups and provides advocacy and advice as required. There is an annual membership fee of $15.

Respite Care for Adults with disabilities

Respite Care for Children with disabilities

Support for Siblings

Contacts for Sibling Support Workshops in the Toronto Area:

Community Living Toronto
Deanna Strazzella

Ken Hamilton Surrey Place Centre
2 Surrey Place, Toronto


The following book can be borrowed from the Family Care Library:

Donald Meyer. Views From Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs. Woodbine House, 1997.

In this book, 45 siblings share their experiences as the brother or sister of someone with a disability. The children whose essays are featured in this volume range in age from four to eighteen and are the siblings of youngsters with a variety of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, ADD, hydrocephalus, visual and hearing impairments, and Down and Tourette syndromes. Their personal tales introduce young siblings to others like them, perhaps for the first time, and allow them to compare experiences. A glossary of disabilities provides easy-to-understand definitions of many of the conditions mentioned. An excellent resource for children. Edited by Donald Meyer, the director of the Sibling Support Project, who developed Sibshops, educational and support programs for school-age brothers and sisters. He is also the author of a variety of books for family members of children with disabilities. 113 pages.

Government Resources and Services

Developmental Services

The Ministry of Community and Social Services provides services and supports to people of all ages who have a developmental disability and their families, primarily through a network of community-based, board operated, nonprofit transfer payment agencies. Services and supports are provided to meet the individual needs of people with developmental disabilities and their families to allow them to live, work and participate in a wide range of activities within the community, thereby improving the quality of their lives. Programs directly delivered by the Ministry include: Special Services at Home (SSAH), a program focused on supporting families in caring for a family member within their home; and Provincially-operated facilities provide supervised living and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities who require specialized care.

Central West Region
Tel.: 905-567-7177
Fax: 905-567-3215
Toll Free: 1-877-832-2818

Toronto Region
Tel.: 416-325-0500
Fax: 416-325-0565

Central East Region
Tel.: 905-868-8900
Fax: 905-895-4330
Toll Free: 1-877-669-6658

The Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program

The first step of this program – early identification of the problem – can happen during pregnancy, at birth, or afterwards. Once identified, children and families are referred to appropriate support services in the community through the local public health unit. This program acknowledges that children can become “at risk” at any time because of changes in family circumstances, or problems at new stages of development. Coordinated, efficient, family-focused services link health, social services and education systems under the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program.

Planning for the Future: Ontario Disability Support Program

The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is intended to meet the needs of people with disabilities and help them to become more independent through income supports (providing financial assistance to people with disabilities) and employment supports (providing the supports people with disabilities need to get and keep jobs).

Web Links


A computer-based community where children and adolescents with disabilities and chronic or acute illnesses can meet friends, role models and mentors.

Camp Awakening

This site provides information on a special co-ed camp designed for young people with physical disabilities (aged 10 to 18).

Child and Family Canada PDF format

This Canadian public education website brings together fifty nonprofit organizations to provide quality, credible resources on children and families on one easy-to-navigate website, including information on children with disabilities.

Center for Parent Information and Resources

A bibliography of resources for teachers on children with behavioural challenges and disabilities.

Special Olympics Ontario

Ontario Special Olympics is a community-based program to enrich the lives of Canadians with mental disabilities through sport. Competitions are conducted every four years, as are world winter and summer competitions, ensuring that every year Canadian athletes can compete in either a provincial, national or international event.

SpeciaLink: The National Centre for Child Care Inclusion

A resource and research helpline, SpeciaLink puts researchers, policy makers and parents in touch with the best inclusive practices on the frontlines of Canadian child care. SpeciaLink’s goal is to expand the quality and quantity of inclusion in child care for children with disabilities.

Variety Village

A sports, fitness and training centre with integrated programming for children who are physically, developmentally and/or medically disabled.