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Overview

Finding What Your Child Needs with Little to No Cost Toolkit

Sheryl Modin | AIDE Canada
This toolkit outlines one mother's quest for resources and activities for her son with autism at no or little cost. She outlines her strategy, and many helpful ideas are offered for finding enjoyable and educational resources.

I am the mom of a wonderful young adult with autism. It is my hope that some of the things we have found along the way may help you now or in the future. This is just what has worked for us and our family over the years. As dollars only go so far, it helps to save wherever you can and stretch your funds.  

How to Find What Your Child Needs?

People have often asked me where and how I find what I do for my child with autism. The best I can say is ‘if someone gives you information or offers you a resource, take it or at least seriously consider it’. And keep that door open as it can lead to some great things – yes, sometimes it doesn’t, but sometimes the result is great! For us, finding resources, services or activities is like a chain that we continue to build link by link. If one link doesn’t work out, we never let go of the link, in the event that we may need to revisit it in the future. Think before you say ‘no’ to a resource or idea. You never know where something may lead you to or what you may discover. As we’ve continued this journey, we’ve sought to create a village of family, friends, professionals, resources, groups, etc. that make up our gold chain of links. Each family’s journey is unique... although some things may be similar, others will differ. But each link on the chain is valuable and helps hold that chain together – ultimately supporting each of us and our families. 

Getting Started… You’re Not Alone, and It’s Okay to Reach Out for Help When Needed

After my son received an autism diagnosis, our pediatrician introduced us to speech language pathology, audiology, and early intervention programs leading us to find answers in the form of a diagnosis. After we received his diagnosis, we were able to access support through an agency. But along the way, we’ve needed much more support. 

When your child receives a diagnosis, it can be overwhelming and there is so much information to sift through and digest. The world you knew is still the same but somehow different. One thing to remember is that there are other parents and caregivers, along with the person with the diagnosis, who are traveling a similar journey. All of us of on the journey are seeking resources, groups, support, etc. 

Below are some examples of how we have found important resources and supports. This is my list, but feel free to add what helps you in your list. It’s important to remember that there are services and resources to help when things are not okay. 

WHAT HELPS? FINDING WHAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS

Remember that the Community Indeed is Your Child and Family’s Community

Your community offers opportunities through a variety of resources. There can be some amazing opportunities to be found. Keep an eye out for groups and events. For instance, Community Leagues often have events and programs throughout the year available to those who are Community League members – the cost of this versus the benefits really make it worthwhile. Family Resource Centres are also a great source of information, resources, and programs. They are open, warm, and welcoming of everyone in the community.

In our city, for instance, there are open mic nights that feature people’s talents and celebrate participation. Our city held a scavenger hunt downtown. Likewise, there are ways to engage in the outdoors such as: garden plots, skateboard parks, outdoor arenas, parks, outdoor workout/weight parks, tennis courts, and beach volleyball.

And be creative. For instance, Food Banks may offer resources or groups with little to no cost. Through Adult Learning, we have accessed a free program that was offered in our area. It was an English as a Second Language conversation group to encourage conversation skills (English is our first language, but I sought a place for my son to engage in conversation and build opportunities for conversation and interaction). He was welcomed in this group. For a small cost he also now does a computer class.  Public libraries have some awesome things such as groups and events that are often free or low cost. We have engaged in summer reading programs, craft nights, movie nights and game nights, just to name a few. Check if groups in your library or community have games and activities in which your child can engage. 

Finding Discounted or Free Resources

There are many helpful programs that are subsidized. I will often be the one to ask if there is a special rate for people with disabilities – and often, there is. Attention to this helps as this can be often missed particularly if people have invisible disabilities.  

There are many specific examples abound (see list of resources in Appendix A). Medical Alert is an example of one program that we have used at no cost and now as an adult, low cost. They now offer a selection of what one can wear as a Medical Alert. We could access this service without cost when my son was in school. But If your school isn't registered, perhaps you could ask the principal to join the program. The program is called ‘No Child Without’ and they also have an autism program. Other such discounted programs and support resources are available. We were fortunate that someone told us about what is called the benevolent fund through the union I had belonged to – a payment for something needed when a member falls on hard times and that is a one-time use. There are other such resources and subsidy programs available. 

We have found a Canadian site for ordering books at a reasonable cost (and in Canadian funds!): www.bookoutlet.ca. It offers new books that are discounted as well as toys, colouring books and puzzles. I have found some of my son's educational books here, with great discounts. 

Sharing Your Needs: Don’t Hesitate to Ask 

A go-to place for information support and for addressing needs is Facebook support groups. People in the groups are there for the same reason and often are willing to help. There’s a bit of caution, though, as people tend to have some pretty strong opinions. But generally, they are respectful, and there often are people who monitor the conversations and will step in if the conversation gets too heated. 

In conversations with others, one thing that has helped us access resources has been sharing our child’s diagnosis and needs. That has opened up so much more acceptance and understanding of his unique specialness and needs. Yes, there were some mixed reactions, but once people would get to know him, not only did they accept him but sometimes even more doors were opened. Yet it is important to recognize that people have various feelings and options about divulging a disability or diagnosis, and I respect that. 

For us, having a service dog was a bridge for sharing. We have found that disclosure, as needed, has helped create more positive outcomes as it has influenced others such as the facilitator of a group, to have more understanding and provide needed accommodations. Sometimes it even opened more doors of opportunity. But that said, sharing about a diagnosis is an individual decision and very personal – you need to do what is right for you. As he became older, I would always ask him if it was okay to share.   

Identifying Places that Offer What Your Child Enjoys

Some stores or other places have items that either may be of particular interest, or are geared toward special needs. We have found our favorite stores, and we watch for when they have a warehouse sale, clearance sale, etc. so we can get what my child loves, equipment, and educational things but still on a budget. Sometimes this means periodically going to the store and looking through their merchandise, and indeed, sometimes I have found true bargains! Sometimes, too, you can find treasures in places you least expect. I found a social skills game once in a toy store at a price I couldn't believe. I have found that some toys are also quite realistic and educative such as sets exploring things like hospitals, dentists, veterinarians, etc. In earlier years, these kits/toys have allowed my son to explore, play, and navigate so he was more comfortable with the real-life situations. There are also books that can teach social skills. For instance, I searched ‘social skills kids’ or ‘social skills autism’ and now realize that there are lots of websites.

We have found resources at the Apple and Microsoft stores. Contacting store staff and others offers insights about what they can offer. I have found that if you reach out and talk to people in these places and let them know what is needed, they are often helpful in finding something that may be useful. 

I also have discovered that local malls periodically bring in celebrities or events. You can reach out to the organizers if you think that a given event (or how it is organized) may not work for your situation. We did that on a number of occasions, and the result was amazing. Once, the mall brought in characters from Treehouse TV who my son and daughter loved. But staying in one spot for any length of time (e.g., standing in a long line) was out of the question for my son. Figuring this event would be busy, I called ahead and asked, and together we figured out a plan that worked. True to form when the day came and we attended the event, my son was walking around and ended up close to the stage. The staff asked him to go to the end of the line. But when the necessary information was conveyed, they immediately welcomed him, asked what he needed, and he was allowed to stay and meet the featured characters as they went on stage, stopping to give him a hug as they passed him. Another time, he met the astronaut, Chris Hadfield! And accommodations were made so he could meet Wayne Gretzky! On that occasion, they even put him at the front of the line. The people behind not only were okay with this, but cheered my son on (even though these people had waited in line for hours). It warmed our hearts and fulfilled a dream for my son and us!

Get to Know Other Parents

Engaging with other parents has been awesome for me as a Mom – not only for connection, but also as a way of mutually sharing what we all accessed and what works (or doesn’t work). I do a lot of engaging with other parents and caregivers. Often, us parents wait outside or on the sidelines of our child’s groups or sessions. Over time, we have become comfortable with sharing ideas and resources. And others may have a different view on something – which may be helpful. 

As an example of the value of others’ input, a friend told me about the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA: copanational.org). This was a true find as they offered a program for kids in which the pilots explained to the youth about the plane and then took them on a flight. My son participated for free, and it was a dream come true for him. He was given a picture taken of him and the other youth that were in his group and the plane. And all of this was initiated just by discussion with a friend! 

In talking with other parents and families, we’re reminded that we’re not alone. You can receive support from others who "get it” and with whom you don't have to explain everything and are accepting. As I’ve waited for my son outside of his groups often with other parents in our ‘circle’ – some whom I now have known for years – the benefit of that support is huge. This is yet one more way to build our village, and these relationships can help facilitate get togethers and possibly friendships for our children. There also are a number of organizations that offer Parent Support Groups.

Build on Contacts

We have engaged in lots of research projects particularly if we feel we can help someone else or if it would give meaning to our journey. One research project involved looking at relationships. That led to a beautiful lasting relationship between my son and others which in turn, led to another social group and friendships. So even if it may seem like work, it could lead to some pretty cool things. 

Another serendipitous moment happened when we went to a Family Night, it was held once a month at this place where the kids and their parents would socialize with one another. In that particular group, though, a lot of the content was geared to younger kids and my son was well passed that age group. We hoped that some older kids would attend, but we persisted and we discovered my son enjoyed and was great at helping the younger kids. Now I help facilitate the group and yes, some older kids come and my son has made friends. It may have taken awhile but it happened! So we learned to persevere.

I often think about the future and what an event or opportunity might lead to. Is there an event or group that needs someone to help out or volunteer? This could lead to something that is rich and rewarding for your child, perhaps something like scouts, guides, groups, etc. For me, volunteering has opened up the opportunity to making something work.

Use the Internet

The Internet plays a big part in my search for things to do on a budget, including community opportunities, ideas, and even visuals. I have searched virtual tours, and my son and I have been able to “go” on an African Safari, enjoy zoo visits, tour our provincial government house, and enjoy museums. My son enjoys traveling through the internet and will explore Canada, Europe and other countries. From there, we look up cultures, etc., and even try our hand at making something from that country. We’ve also found virtual events, activities and groups such as art projects and support groups.

We have used Skype or Zoom as a tool for peer get togethers. We talk to the others prior to these events to make sure ahead of time we have the same things on both ends such as the same board game (make sure they are the same make), video games, movies, baking, etc. For online board games, each person moves all the players so each one can see where everyone is on the board. Exercising together such as walking on the same spot, dancing and playing music together has been successful. And of course, just talking together, even online, is useful and enjoyable. Our rule though is to use it safely.

Recently, our church has gone online, using both Zoom and Facebook. We told our minister how helpful it is to have services and activities on Facebook and Zoom so my son can watch something as many times as he wants to in order to better understand.

Watch social media such as Facebook groups for information, opinions and activities. I have found lots of interesting information on selected topics. For instance, the Elections Canada site is a jackpot of resources related to the electoral process. The Veteran Affairs website offers resources for Remembrance Day. If you are homeschooling, Mel Academy is helpful. It’s a bit pricey for a yearly subscription, but it has extensive supplies for chemistry activities. Kiwi Crate offers subscriptions with various options. We selected the Tinker Crate one, and it was easy to follow. It included some easy circuits (the kits are user friendly) and offered positive reinforcement, with a tangible at the end that the student can use. These can as well be used by anyone.

Engage with Public Services and Elected Officials/Representatives

I have found that learning about, and positively engaging with our public services is important for several reasons. First, greater safety for your child and ensuring access to public services are so important. We contacted first responders (e.g., Fire Hall), to ask them about programs and ways to learn about their services; this is so important as it is often complex and intimidating to navigate and engage with these services. Emergency response services host open houses. We have found it helpful to communicate about what we need at these events.

Parks Canada is another example of a helpful resource. We contact different parks to see if they have anything that they can send us through the mail. Federal, provincial, and even local jurisdictions may have informative and interesting events happening. We’ve often gone to a provincial park for their information sessions on various topics such as geocaching, snowshoeing and other interests. In the course of these sessions, we learned that the park we frequently visited had a variety of backpacks of different themes that could be borrowed.

In seeking to ensure that the needs of my child (and others with disabilities in our community) are better supported, accessing our local MLA, MP or other elected officials in federal, provincial or municipal governments as appropriate, has been helpful. In those conversations, it is important to not just identify what is needed, but also what is working – so that change is sought and the existing good things continue. 

When the municipal election was held in our city, my son was invited to help. I saw this as a way to have a voice in seeking what would help, things that work, etc. Also, we learned lots about civic issues such as what a by-election means. As my son met the requirements to vote in a by-election, we bought a membership not for the idea of being a part of the party per se, but rather because it offered learning and experience of being involved in civic life and voting. This experience really helped when he voted federally when he was of age. I have found that Elections Canada is a good resource for learning about elections and government and addresses variety of age groups.

Finally, it may be of interest to keep an eye out for municipal, provincial and/or federal government awards and groups. In our province, a friend learned about the great kid award. We applied for the award, and my son received it! There are also various opportunities such as for youth to work as pages and participants on youth councils. These are all learning experiences and character-building opportunities.

Consider Local Stores or Businesses in Your Community

Without realizing that we were doing so, it occurred to me that we were consistently going to the same stores over time. What we were doing actually, was creating a safe place for my son to gain skills in the stores as the staff got familiar with him. Over time, this proved to be a safety net and opportunity for learning. I also have a friend that lived in small quarters, and as a family they enjoyed reading at the local bookstore. Make sure to thank businesses and let them know if something is working or successful. I have sometimes also made a gentle suggestion for something that would make an opportunity work better for my son. Importantly, we have found that many businesses and personnel want to be inclusive and are open to ideas that would help achieve that goal.

Find Ways to Engage and Give Back to Your Community

We look for ways to give back or volunteer in our community. What you choose, of course, will be unique to you and your family. For us, we volunteer in our church and have become ‘snow angels’ (shovelling snow for neighbours). As noted, my son volunteered to help with a municipal election in our city, which in turn, created ways in which we could have a voice in conveying what worked as well as what was lacking in the community. 

We have engaged in research projects, with the aim of contributing and hopefully helping others on their journey. What has resulted from these experiences, is more than I would have thought. Unexpected surprises have resulted, including new friendships for both my son and I, and even support when we particularly needed it. We have made a point of filling out surveys, attending town hall meetings, etc. where municipal, provincial and/or federal governments are looking for input about what may be needed in the area. We respond honestly and tactfully in seeking to get our point across. The result of one of these experiences was that they facilitated a new resource. This has taught me that you never know what can come from connection. Engaging and contributing are so important, because it not only offers a way to give back, but it also can lead to so much more for your child and family.

Remain Active and Healthy

We engage in activities at gyms and fitness programs because physical fitness helps my son stay healthy both physically and mentally. YMCAs in our community offer subsidies for people with financial need. And city recreation programs have discounted or free services/programs for individuals with disabilities. Check with your local recreational centre for accessible programs and subsidies/discounts.

In our community, Canadian Adaptive Snowsports (CADS) is a group that supports people with disabilities on the ski slopes. This resource has been amazing for my son as he learned that he enjoyed being just like everyone else, and having fun on the hills – with the support he needs for success. He has grown in so many ways from this group. He has also enjoyed participating in groups such as Special Olympics and Challenger Baseball. Check your region for local chapters of such resources. 

In thinking about staying active, there are so many ways to engage in fun activities. Geocaching can be a fun way to engage the whole family. It offers learning in so many ways – mapping, way-finding, seeking a treasure (delayed gratification for one’s hard work), etc. Initially buying the device is a cost, but you have repeated access to this activity over time. We tried this out for free at a provincial park event in our area which gave us an idea of what it was like. And in the process, we found another group that offered additional activities. There are places and websites that will explain both how it works as well as the rules to follow.

Actively Look for Events in Your Community both for Your Child and You

If you look around – searching for community events in local newspapers or other venues – you may find some cool things to try. Through the news and information shared by one of our support persons, I discovered free online courses that were available through many universities and colleges in Canada and internationally. As I signed up for one, then two courses, my son looked at me with this wonderful expression. I have been his homeschool teacher and for him, it was, ‘Wait... Now my mom is learning too!” He loved that idea! Now he asks me if I have done my homework! Yup, a bit of a role reversal and I think he loves that. And I can say that it has helped me in terms of self care... something that, if you are like me, often gets missed by us parents. By the way, anyone can sign up for these courses!

Our challenge is to always be on the ‘look out’ for services. As an example, my son was fortunate to have had a service dog until she earned her butterfly wings. We found out about how to access a service dog through the news. There are many different sources to find information, including the media/social media, internet, TV, and talking in person. (In terms of accessing information for a service dog when seen in public, one rule is ‘don’t distract the dog’, but you can see where they came from via the badge on their jacket. And then you can search for that organization and inquire.)

Access Public and Cultural Institutions

We have enjoyed cultural institutions such as libraries, art venues, the local zoo, and museums. We have found that a membership for the museum close to us is actually quite reasonable, and the museum was very accommodating, including asking us for our input. The local Science Centre was the same. I can’t say enough about these resources. Staff have even got to know my son to create a positive experience for him, and have shared with him about a new venue that they thought he might enjoy. We have engaged in Home Education groups through the Science Centre that were beyond amazing and I thought were very reasonable! And sometimes I have found some great learning and sensory items in the gift shops of these venues.

I’ve found that most of these venues accept the Access 2 Card which makes it more affordable to access them more often. The Access 2 Card can be applied for through Easter Seals, and we love it. It has helped us cost-wise; you pay for the person with the disability, but the accompanying caregiver or support person is admitted for free (see information about this Card in Appendix A at the end of this Toolkit).

Seek Ingenuity and Creativity in Observing Your Child and What they Enjoy

Try things out and observe how your child responds. For instance, when we are in groups of peers (e.g., engaging in a board game), watch to see what your child and the group is gravitating towards. If it is something new, try to access that game, for example, before the group meets again and learn the game. This approach has been really positive for us. In another instance, my son’s aide suggested that he introduce two of his clients that were similar in areas of interest. He believed they would get along well, and engaging together would allow them to socialize. All agreed and the two of them loved these experiences, and look forward to spending time together.  

We have made our own visuals and manipulatives to learn things such as how to use a PIN number for a bank card, as well as learning our telephone number and address. We found a picture that looked similar to a debit machine. I laminated the bank card visual, and added Velcro to the PIN pad where the numbers would be. Then we cut out the numbers so they would fit on the PIN pad, and laminated those and added Velcro. My son got the feeling of pushing the numbers on the PIN pad, and we would add them as he "punched them in" such that they would appear on the pad. We enacted a similar process to learn our phone number and address. It is a great way to get creative and learn these sorts of skills in a manner that works for your child.

We often need to “think outside the box” for many things. As an example, if I find something like a game, I often think about how I can adapt it to support a skill that my son is working on. I’ve joined Facebook groups of people with similar interests. I look for new ideas and if a resource is shared, I will look into it further. Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.ca/) is a good resource for needed supplies. The Dollar Store has inexpensive items and if they break, its not a big issue. I’ve found that one resource will lead to another resource. If we are playing a game – especially a learning or educational type game – I will see if there is a website and more games that would help us. 

Make Use of All the Resources You Can Access

If services are available, we tend to use them. We also try to keep the doors open; sometimes we have reached out to them to seek out other ideas and approval for additional resources. In terms of funding, we keep our government-funded contracts open as it is easier to access funding etc. for things such as camps that may fill up quickly. If you close a contract of a funder, you may have to start the application process all over again to ultimately access the same services. And if so, there may be delays.

As my son has gotten older and become an adult, I ensured that all required documents etc. (e.g., for guardianship) were done before he turned 18. If needed, check with your social worker or service provider to see if there is an agency or support person who can help with this process. We looked for agencies and programs that could help with this transition, and support resources for an adult with a disability. As we hear about such resources, we keep a list for our reference. And as noted earlier, family and friends are great for finding resources!

Uphold Your Child’s Right of Self Determination

All of these elements may sound good, but what is most important to keep in mind is the interests, strengths, and needs of the person with disabilities. I make a point of asking my son what he wants, and letting him feel (and indeed be) central in his decisions. For him at times, this may look like a guided type of questions, prompting, etc., but at the core, I deeply listen to him and honor his wishes. We also keep a record of what we have done, so we can refer back to it when needed.

As you have read, we have created a village of various supports and resources, including but not limited to, our family, friends, professionals, agencies, etc. These people and resources contribute in various ways, but each and every one is important to us. This didn't happen overnight, but through time, and patience, we and especially my son have created our network. They are our village – and you likely have one too (and/or can create your village). Truly, I never knew how big our village was until I sat down one day and thought about it.

To find your resources, realize that it takes time. Some of these ideas may, I hope, offer something to think about or make your journey a little easier. Most of all, know that you are not alone on this journey. There are many parents and caregivers, like myself and you, that are out there. We are part of a community – working together for each other and our kids. 

 

 

SOME POTENTIAL QUESTION TO ASK IN SEEKING WHAT YOU AND YOUR CHILD NEED: 

 

1. What activities does/would your child enjoy? 

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2. Where could you find these activities/resources? 

______________________________________________________________________________ 

______________________________________________________________________________

3. What would be a question you could ask of key decision makers (e.g., local service providers, community members, decision makers) to make these resources accessible for your child?

______________________________________________________________________________ 

______________________________________________________________________________

4. What is a first step you could take?

______________________________________________________________________________ 

______________________________________________________________________________ 

 

Appendix A:  A Few Examples of Resources that May Be Helpful (compiled by Noah Derkat) 

Below is a selected listing of resources and/or activity ideas organized in two sections: A. Recreational Resources, and B. Financial Resources. Note that these are only a few of many resources and ideas. For more resources, search under AIDE Canada’s “Locate” tab. 

 

A. RECREATIONAL RESOURCES

The following list offers a range of activities and programs with little to no cost in respective provinces/territories. Please contact these resources directly for more detail and up-to-date information.  

 

National (Canada-Wide) 

  • Ability Online (https://abilityonline.org/)

    • Social network/platform for kids with disabilities or illnesses to connect with one another 

  • Access 2 Card (Venues vary by province) (https://access2card.ca/

    • Discounted or free admission to facilities, programs, activities, or events for individuals with impairments or disabilities’ and their accommodating supports (e.g., movie theatres, art galleries, museums, amusement parks, zoos, recreation centres, science centres, etc.) 

  • Beaches and Swimming 

  • Board Game cafes/groups/clubs  

  • Bowling, Mini Golf, Arcades 

  • Boys and Girls Clubs where available

  • Drop-in programs 

  • Evening programs 

  • Summer camps 

  • CADS (Canadian Adaptive Snowsports)(https://cads.ski/)

    • Inclusive snow sport options  

  • Challenger Baseball Programs (https://challengerbaseballcanada.ca/)

    • Baseball league for individuals with disabilities (fees may vary)

    • Colleges and Universities may have free events and programs that they offer

    • Possibly free online courses or tutorials too

    • Corn Mazes 

  • Escape Rooms (Can be costly, keep an eye out for coupons or deals) 
  • Farmers and Craft Markets 

  • Festivals (reach out and ask if they have a day for special needs and if parents/caregivers can get a discount or free admission to provide support) 

  • Geocaching (https://www.geocaching.com/play) 
  • (Physical Activity included with this, good way to get active) 

  • Hiking trails/paths 

  • Historic sites 

  • Jump Start – Canadian Tire (Sports and Recreation charity) (https://jumpstart.canadiantire.ca/)  

  • Local community events that you and your child would enjoy (bingo, open-mic nights, barbeque, scavenger hunts, shopping mall events) 

  • Especially around special occasions like the holidays (Canada Day) 

  • (Many services for persons with disabilities, virtual options as well)  

  • Open houses at places like police stations or fire departments, letting them talk and interact with the child/teens/adults 

  • Parks Canada, Provincial Parks, Federal Parks 

  • Talking to officials; see what is available and accessible 

  • Parks, green spaces, basketball courts, outdoor rinks, skateboard parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, beaches, outdoor garden plots 

  • Pottery workshops/classes/drop-in 

  • Public Libraries (check for groups and events as well, as these may be low to no cost) 

  • Public Skating/outdoor skating rinks 

  • Recreation centres (YMCA) 

  • Science centers 

  • Second-hand bookstores, department stores, clothing stores (you never know what you will find) 

  • Sensory Friendly Shopping Options 

  • Special Olympics Canada 

  • Trivia Nights 

  • Volunteering opportunities in the community 

  • Virtual Tours (things like museums, different cities) 

Alberta 

  • Creative art programs for individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities 

  • Advocacy, information, support, and resources 

  • Social and recreation program specific to ASD and Asperger’s 

  • Fees can be covered by FSCD or PDD. But there are additional small fees such as admission to movies, or lunch costs 

  • Potentially can be used with Access 2 card (see above), to lower fees. Subsidy is possible if needed as well 

  • Facebook page with videos to keep occupied at home during the COVID-19 pandemic 

  • Advocacy, information, support, and resources 

  • Advocacy, information, and resources 

  • Inclusive drop-in programs and club spaces at a variety of locations across the city 

  • Offers a wide range of programs, services, and supports  

  • Sports, leisure, social and skills programs; and pre-employment programs 

  • Open to suggestions for new ideas 

  • Summer camps with reduced fees ($50) with FSCD funding. Centre bursaries also available for eligible individuals  

  • Peers for Teens learning program & peers social skills for young adults – flexibility with cost, may be covered by health insurance, payment plan option, bursaries available, and potential cost covered by FSCD 

  • Access to Social Workers that could assist in accessing the forms and services one needs as well as offering navigation and support 

  • Various programs (e.g., fitness, yoga, music wellness, art, adult meetup groups, parent support) 

  • Offers a wide range of programs, services and supports 

  • Sports, leisure, asocial and skills programs 

  • Summer camps 

  • Project EPIC nurturing participation in community 

  • Help in navigating adults’ access to professionals 

  • The Nina (Edmonton based art center & collective made up entirely of artists with developmental disabilities) (thenina.ca) 

  • Has different exhibits that are offered throughout the months 

  • Free weekly community art nights (adults only) 

  • Free weekly family art nights (all ages) 

  • Joining the collective gives members access to the studio and provides supplies, studio space, mentorship, and spaces to exhibit and potentially sell their art 

  • Annual fee $175 to $350 dependent on how many days of the week (minimum 1) attending the studio 

  • Flexible hours and drop-in  

 

British Columbia 

  • Free membership 

  • Referrals to services 

  • Social clubs, events, programs 

  • Discounts on workshops and training 

  • Summer Camps 

Manitoba 

  • Organizes activities for families with children who have autism and a yearly autism walk 

  • Activities could serve as ideas for future things to do with one’s child 

  • Setting up meetups for kids who struggle with social skills and or bullying 

  • Opportunity to create friendships   

  • Inclusion Winnipeg 

  • (https://inclusionwinnipeg.org/

  • Has a variety of workshops and programs, ways for individuals with disabilities to get involved

  • Art among friends inclusive classes 

  • leisureONLINE 

New Brunswick 

  • Free membership 

  • Community center resource for individuals with autism 

  • Offers programs and connections to other resources and services that are nearby 

  • Camp Marvel $140 early bird for 4 days 

  • Option to rent the center 

  • Plans events, activities, and connection to other resources for individuals with autism and parents 

  • Arts are for everyone – performing arts show  

  • A number of free tickets are provided to individuals with autism 

Newfoundland and Labrador 

  • Autism Society Newfoundland & Labrador (https://www.autism.nf.net/)

    • Offers programs for young adults who are transitioning into adulthood and is related to finding employment  

  • Organization working with individuals with disabilities 

  • Offers many programs (sports, music, art, employment, summer camps) 

  • Fees vary depending on program, most several weeks long for the cost 

  • Artist run gallery in St. John’s 

  • Hosts a variety of different art forms 

  • Admission to most exhibitions is free 

  • Lantern Festival (free all ages event, plus cost of materials $2 to $5) 

 

Northwest Territories 

  • Offers a summer camp (experience summer) for children 4 to 12 who have a disability 

  • First come first serve inclusive gardening plots  

  • Council is also a great starting place for other resources and assistance with applying for government programs, possibly social workers available 

  • Admission by donation 

  • Offers changing exhibits about the land and history 

  • Has washrooms and large grass areas 

  • Picnic tables 

 

Nova Scotia 

  • Art Galleries (free admission) 

  • Autism Nova Scotia (autismnovascotia.ca) 

  • Excellent community-based organization with a list of inclusive programs and services on their website (fees vary depending on program) 

  • Has summer camp information available 

  • Employment programs 

  • Monthly social night for adults with autism & other programs available for youth social programs 

  • Dungeons and Dragons groups

  • Video project club

  • Year-round skating (inline skating and ice skating) 

     

  • Equipment available for rent as well 

  • Heritage museums 

  • The Larry O’Connell Art Hive (Larry O’Connell Building, 6691 Fourth St, Halifax, NS) 

  • Free open art studio for all ages 

  • Also has projects and crafts led by instructors 

  • Open to all ages but requires supervision for 15 and under 

  • Fridays and Saturdays 

 

Nunavut 

  • Music, theatre, film, storytelling, circus, dance and visual artists from the Nunavut area 

  • Local food, dancing, music and winter events 

  • Local culture and art from Nunavut 

  • Annual celebration of Inuit traditions, throat singing and dancing 

  • The festival includes snowmobile races, igloo building, dog team races, scavenger hunts, craft fairs and tutorials, and food banquets 

 

Ontario 

  • Adapted Programs and Inclusive Services (City of Toronto – Membership Needed) 

  • Art Gallery of Ontario (Free admission for those under 25) (https://ago.ca/)  

    • Autism Ontario Created a List of Resources for support During COVID-19 

  • Offered at different locations in Ontario 

  • Volunteer Based Charity but should confirm if there are additional costs to participate in the program 

 

Prince Edward Island 

  • Program for individuals aged 5-17 with physical or cognitive disabilities 

  • 45 Minute Class. For 8 weeks the cost of the program is $30 

  • Autism Society of Prince Edward Island 

  • Discounts on Autism Society workshops, training and events 

  • Access to their library which has sensory toys/games, books and more resources 

  • Subsidy funding for training and workshops 

  • Free swimming opportunities and events 

  • Hosts family events 

  • May to September 

  • (free to $11 per person depending on age) 

  • Provide training and support to individuals with intellectual disability 

  • Has programs to support in skill development 

  • Bakery and catering program providing skills for future employment opportunities for individuals  

  • Woodworking opportunities for the development of future skills that can be used for employment  

  • Non-profit in Charlottetown that offers services to individuals with intellectual disabilities  

  • Offers programs, services and resources for members 

  • Community support Programs 

  • Variety of day programs (including advanced learning certificate programs, social inclusion, self-sustainability, appreciation of art, music, reading, recreation, sports) 

    • Community opportunities such as concerts, theatre, museums, galleries, day trips, libraries, etc.  

  • Victoria Park

    • Has tennis courts, ball parks, swimming pools, a boardwalk, playground, picnic tables, grass areas, etc. 

  • Visiting provincial parks and lighthouses 

 

Quebec 

  • Offers programs, workshops, and camps 

  • Membership covers cost of workshops but also has drop-in available 

  • Free admission to those accompanying a person with a disability  

  • Many locations the CAL can be used at across Quebec 

  • Card is free 

  • Ferry rides that cross St. Lawrence River from Old Quebec to Levis, QC 

  • $2.40 to $3.55 

 

Saskatchewan 

  • Offers programs for young adults (independent living, cooking program, social skills program, drop-in program, active living, improv) 

  • Membership Needed 

  • Resource library with books, magazines, DVD’s on autism related topics 

  • Summer programs and Camps

  • Canada Wide Membership $30/yr

  • Kids of Note (https://kidsofnote.com/)  

     

    • Choir group of both those with and without disabilities or impairments 

 

Yukon 

  • $10 annual membership fee 

  • access to resource libraries including software, DVD’s, and videos 

  • Access to computer stations  

  • Hosts workshops and programs 

 

B. FINANCIAL/GOVERNMENT RESOURCES

The following resources are examples of government-based programs that may offer financial or other program supports to individuals with disabilities and/or their families/guardians. Please follow up with your jurisdiction for more detail and other programs. Note that these are only examples, hence, this list is likely incomplete. 

 

National/Federal (Canada-Wide) 

  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit; Children’s Benefit 

  • Monthly benefit payments for the dependent children of those whose parent/guardian is receiving a disability benefit themselves (which requires one to have contributed enough for CPP) 

  • Child must be under 18 years of age, or between 18 and 25, attending full time post secondary education 

  • Exclusion applies to Quebec where you would instead apply for the Quebec Pension Plan disability benefit  

  • Child Disability Benefit  

  • Disability Supports Deduction

    • Those with mental and/or physical impairments themselves may be able to have certain medical expenses deducted on their taxes 

  • Disability Tax Credit (DTC)  

  • Employment Works program – training and skills development for those with autism or other impairments aiming to enter the workforce

  • Inclusion Canada 

    • A national federation aimed at creating both further and fuller inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities through supports such as income security assistance with employment, etc. 

       

    • (https://inclusioncanada.ca/)  

  • Ready Willing & Able Employment Program 

  • Connects employers to persons with an intellectual disability/ASD 

  • Provides support throughout the hiring process and ongoing work 

  • (http://readywillingable.ca/

  • Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)  

 

Alberta 

  • Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) 

  • Alberta Works

    • Employment and transition services  

  • Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) 

  • Offers both financial and health benefits for those who are eligible and living with a permanent medical condition that is ongoingly preventing them from earning a living 

  • (https://www.alberta.ca/aish.aspx)  

  • Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD)  

  • Supports both children and families with access to support(s) from government and community resources 

  • Coordinates these supports and services  

  • Helps with costs related to a child’s needs  

  • (https://www.alberta.ca/fscd.aspx

  • Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program (PDD)  

 

British Columbia 

 

Manitoba 

  • Children’s disABILITY Services 

  • Community Living disABILITY Services

    • Provides personalized information to individuals who are eighteen years of age or older and have impairments, on the available supports that may assist them in being able to live more independently 

  • Manitoba Child Benefit 

  • Manitoba Employment and Income Assistance 

  • Offers some monthly benefits to individuals with disabilities requiring additional financial support 

  • Goal of helping recipients to find work, but also has funding to provide assistance as needed 

  • (https://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/eia/eia_disability.html)  

  • Manitoba Family Tax Benefit, offers an additional federal disability tax credit

    • Manitoba provincial primary caregiver tax credit (only one person can claim) 

 

New Brunswick 

  • Disability Support Program  

  • Family Supports for Children with Disabilities 

  • Government of New Brunswick Disability Support Program 

  • Housing Assistance for Persons with Disabilities 

 

Newfoundland & Labrador 

  • Board and Lodging Supplement

    • Funding supplement that is available based on an individual being aged 18 or over and who has a disability 

  • Community Behavioural Services (CBSP) 

  • Voluntary community behavioural support program available to children who are school aged or older 

  • Program specifically provides both interventions as well as supports to individuals who have a developmental disability/behavioural concerns 

  • Direct Home Services Program 

  • No cost home based intervention program

  • For young children who are between infancy and preschool age, and at risk for developing significant development delays 

  • Goals entail skill teaching and improving behavioural strategies in child’s development

  • Referral needed 

  • Individualized Living Arrangement (ILA)

    • Used when no additional services or options are available for the adult with intellectual disabilities and in order to meet the home support criteria.

      • The individual is not residing with their family

      • Funding for basic income support and additional funding for home support or other needed costs

  • Intensive Applied Behavioural Analysis Program 

  • Early intervention program for children who have autism 

  • Eligibility for children up to the age of third grade

  • Teaches meaningful behavioural skills for both the child and family to use 

  • Provincial Home Support Program

    • Home support agency or support worker hired by the individual’s family to help offset the scope of services being provided by family members to assist in care, cost can be subsidized to a certain extent to defer incurred costs 

  • Shared Living Arrangements

    • Arrangements where individuals with disabilities live together and share costs of living and the additional arrangement of home support staff 

  • Special Assistance Program.

    • Supports for basic medical supplies and equipment that would support the individual with their activities of daily living 

  • Special Child Welfare Allowance Program 

  • Helps to provide financial assistance with costs of services and supports to families with a child under 18 years, with a physical and/or intellectual disability 

  • Helps with purchasing of items needed due to a child’s disability 

 

Northwest Territories 

  • Contributing Assistance for Repairs and Enhancements Mobility (CARE Mobility) 

  • Provides assistance to homeowners who have a household member with a disability, to make modifications that could help with independent living 

  • Health and Social Services System Navigator (1-855-846-9601 Toll Free) 

  • Helps individuals or families to receive information on health/social services in NWT 

  • Connects with appropriate services and assists with accessing forms 

  • Income Assistance 

  • Information, Referral, and Support Program 

  • Provides information to individuals with disabilities about related services that NWT offers and offers connections to other services 

  • Assists clients in applying for programs and assists in attending meetings/appeals related to disability issues  

  • Writes support letters 

  • Referrals to appropriate programs 

  • Supported Living Program 

  • Supporting Child Inclusion and Participation (SCIP) 

 

Nova Scotia 

  • Child Tax Benefits 

  • Community Services 

  • Direct Family Support for Children Program (DFSC)/ Enhanced Family Support for Children program  

  • Aims to support families in which an individual with disabilities lives at home 

  • Amount of funding based on the extent that the disability impacts the individual and family  

  • Disability Support Program (DSP) - Supports individuals with a broad range of disabilities to access community-based/residential vocational resources 

  • Standard Household Rate - Provides a standard rate for needs such as shelter, food, clothing, utilities, personal items, etc. 

  • Alternative Family Support Program – provides support to individuals who are living with disabilities in a private family home 

  • Independent Living Support – provides funding for support services based on assessed needs of eligible participants who require support to live on their own. Goal is to maximize one’s level of independence 

  • Assists with maintaining connections, relationships, and maintaining health and wellness 
  • Licensed Homes for Special Care – settings that provide support and supervision in homes that have three beds or more. Different options include Small Option Home, Group Homes/Developmental Residences, Residential Care Facilities, Adult Residential Centres, and Regional Rehabilitation Centres 

  • Flex Program  

 

Nunavut 

  • Income Assistance  

  • Nunavut Child Benefit (NUCB) 

  • Assists with cost of raising children for low income families 
  • Territorial Worker’s Supplement 

 

Ontario 

  • Assistance for Developmental Disabilities  

  • Able to help aid individuals and their families as related to one’s developmental disabilities and their needs. Required to contact the regional office which would be most applicable to an individual based on their location  

  • Examples of the supports which could be available includes respite, community support and residential services  

  • (http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/specialneeds/developmental.aspx)  

  • Fair Pass Transit Discount Program 

  • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)  

  • Income supports may be available to individuals and families to help them cover the costs associated with essential living expenses 

  • Health benefits - Potential prescription, dental, vision care, medical supplies 

  • Ontario Autism Program 

  • Support for services 
  • Out of Home Respite 

  • Special Services at Home 

 

Prince Edward Island 

  • AccessAbility - Offers to support individuals with disabilities which may include:  

  • Personal Support – life skills training, technical aids and assistive devices, supports to assist self-sufficiency/ foster independence  

  • Housing Supports – Provides assistance in relation to independent living and could also include other forms of assistance such as: 

  • Financial assistance for caregiver support in community residential settings 

  • Financial assistance for modifications to the home or vehicle for disability modifications 

  • Community Supports 
  • Vocational assistance through services such as coaching, skills training and supports for youth as they transition away from the education system into the workforce  

  • Day programs, personal aid or transportation 

  • Caregiver Supports 
  • Respite support 

  • Support for adults who are not able to stay in the home alone while their caregivers work or attend school 

  • Financial Supports 
  • Basic living assistance 
  • Autism Services for Children and Youth – Intensive Behavioural Intervention 

  • Child Care Subsidy Program 

  • Dental Public Health Services 

  • Family Health Benefit Drug Program 

  • Social Assistance Program 

 

Quebec 

  • For information on financial support and programs for those families who have disabled/neurodiverse children 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Individualized Funding Program and Eligible Services List Available 

  • Cognitive Disability Strategy Support (CDS) 

  • Helps with accessing community based services for individuals with disabilities  

  • Staff members would work with program participants seeking to ensure that all the needs of those with intellectual disabilities are met in a way that supports living independently within the context of one’s own community 

  • Programs include; 

  • Personalized support including for mental health (counselling/crisis intervention)
  • Family supports
  • Needs assessments
  • Group Homes/Group Living Homes
  • Supportive Living Programs 
  • Day Programs 
  • Self-Directed Funding: Provides direct funding to those adults who have intellectual disabilities for them to have more control over their required supports and services 

  • Community Case Management: Those who meet CLSD requirements have access to a case worker who can provide additional support 

  • Outreach and Prevention Services: Supports those individuals with higher/complex needs to help provide services 

  • Respite for Families Caring for a Child with Intellectual Disabilities 
  • Financial benefit for eligible families of a child with an intellectual disability 
  • Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) 

  • Income support for those with significant and lasting disabilities 
  • Living Income – Fixed monthly income to individuals 

  • Disability Income – Helps with costs associated with the impact of the disability  

  • Exceptional need income – Additional support related to special circumstances 

  • Workforce Development for People with Disabilities Program (WFD-PD) 

Yukon 

  • Children’s Disability Services  

  • Home Care program 

  • Social Assistance Supplement 

  • $250 additional supplement for individuals 19 years and older who are unemployed due to their long term disability 
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