About special needs

Children with special needs may have a variety of conditions that may affect their physical, communication, intellectual, emotional, social and/or behavioural development.

Children with special needs may have multiple conditions and/or disabilities that impact their daily activities and functioning. Special needs can include:

  • communication delays and disorders
  • physical disabilities
  • neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • acquired brain injuries
  • chronic and/or long-term medical conditions
  • specific diagnoses, such as Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Programs and services for children with special needs

Find programs and services for your child and your family. Eligibility varies and can depend on your child’s needs, family size or household income.

Contact your ministry regional office for more information about support and services that are available near you.

Ontario Autism Program

Learn about resources, support, services and programs for families of children and youth on the autism spectrum.

Children’s rehabilitation services

Learn about the rehabilitation services and supports for children and youth up to 19 years old with physical and/or developmental disabilities and/or communication disorders.

Coordinated service planning

Find out how to connect with a dedicated service planning coordinator who can connect you to cross-sectoral services, and monitor your child’s needs and progress through a single Coordinated Service Plan.

Mental health services for children and youth

Learn about mental health support for children with behavioural, emotional, mental health and addiction issues.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Find resources and support for families with children and youth affected with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Indigenous fetal alcohol spectrum disorder/Child Nutrition Program (FASD/CNP)

Find resources for this program that is designed and delivered by Indigenous Service Providers.

Respite and family support

Get respite support and apply for funding that you can use to purchase support for your family.

Special Services at Home Program

Learn about what funding is available to eligible families of children and youth with physical and/or developmental disabilities to purchase supports.

Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities

Learn about financial support for low-income to moderate-income families to cover some of the extra costs of caring for a child with a severe disability.

Respite programs

Learn about programs available to give families a break or respite, from the day-to-day care for a child or youth with special needs.

Get custom equipment and supplies

Assistive devices program

If your child has a long-term physical disability, find out how to get help paying for customized equipment and specialized supplies, like wheelchairs, hearing aids and supplies used with ostomies.

Schools and education

Special education in Ontario schools

Learn about special education programs and services to help students who have behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities, to help students benefit fully from their school experience.

Student Nutrition Program

The Student Nutrition Program provides meals and snacks to children and youth in schools to help them learn, develop healthy eating habits and feel a sense of belonging at school.

First Nations Student Nutrition Program

Students can get nutritious meals and snacks at school to support learning and healthy development in a way that best meets the needs of communities. The program is available in 120 sites in 64 First Nations.

Support your child's development

There are programs and services to support the healthy development of all children so that they can participate fully at home, school and in the community.

Early child development programs

Learn about the programs and resources to support your child’s growth and development from birth up to the time they start school:

EarlyON child and family centres

EarlyON Child and Family Centres offer free, high-quality programs for families and children from birth to 6 years old. You can learn and play with your child, meet people and get advice from early childhood professionals.

Infant and Child Development Program

Learn about supports for children with developmental disabilities or who are at risk of developmental delay. The program provides services in the child’s home and community, with a focus on supporting parents in promoting their child’s early development, from birth to school entry.

Information for special needs professionals

The Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI) provides specialized, trauma-responsive mental health and developmental services to achieve the best possible outcomes for Ontario’s children and youth. Learn about their education services and resources for professionals.

Learn more about the special needs workforce survey and read the results.

Access resources and information about mental health from the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.