Focus on Fun: Finding Adapted, Inclusive and Integrated Recreation Programs

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All kids can benefit from fun, structured activities outside of the classroom throughout the year. It helps kids relax, build friendships, independence and fosters skill-building. 


Fall registration for many recreation programs has started or will begin in September. It is best to be prepared so you don’t miss the limited spots available in their favourite activity.

Are you hoping to get your child involved in some new activities this year?  To help get you started read on for some tips. And remember that you can always speak to a member of your child’s team to help you find the right fit for your child with special needs! 

Where to start?

How to know if your child requires integrated, inclusive or adapted programs:

•    Do they benefit from extra support in the classroom at school or at home?
•    Do they have a physical, medical, developmental and/or learning disability exists that affects the safety of the other participants?
•    Do they require extra support at home for basic care such as dressing and toileting?
•    Is the individual currently associated with a support agency or program?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your child may benefit from an adapted, integrated or inclusive program.

Public Programs:
Check your local municipality in early August and September for their adapted (also called special needs or integrated programs) listings of Fall/Winter programs (see regional recreation links here). Many municipalities, or local YMCAs, offer a variety of specialized programs for all ages. Basketball, dancing, music, arts and crafts, youth and social clubs, etc. may be available at your closest community centre at affordable rates. Registration dates vary, but are usually August or early September for fall classes and then again in December for January start dates.

Local community centers often offer adapted or special needs swimming programs at a lower staff to participant ratio, and often in a warmer, smaller pool. These classes fill up very quickly, so be ready the day registration opens!

Private Programs:
Private sports, music, dance and other extracurricular activity organizations will be registering for this year’s programs in early September and may offer more specialized programs or leagues throughout the school year. Check your municipal recreation program guide for private ads, look in local newspapers, ask your child’s service provider for suggestions, visit the CTN calendar or check online groups for recommendations from other parents in your community.

Need extra support 1:1 for your child?

Public Programs:
Most municipalities can provide an additional support staff to your child to attend a program. This could be a trained staff at an additional hourly wage that can assist with your child’s behaviourial or social needs, toileting, or feeding. If your child only needs assistance with redirection, reminders, or staying on task, a volunteer (often called a Leisure Buddy, 1:1 support or integrated worker) may be a better option. Contact your municipal Special Needs or Inclusive Recreation Coordinator (found on your local city or town’s recreation website) for more information.

Private Programs:
Private organizations may also be able to provide extra staff to support your child. The best way to know is to ask! Make sure to be honest about the needs of your child so the organization will know how to support them. 

You can also have your own support worker attend a program with your child. This could be an older sibling or family member, such as a cousin, family friend, or hired respite worker. They are all welcomed into programs under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. 

Need funding?

Public Funding Options:
Municipalities often offer financial subsidies for low-income families for the costs of registration. You will need to provide financial details about your household income. Contact your local Special Needs or Integrated Programs Coordinator for more information about municipality specific funding.

Special Services at Home (SSAH) and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) can be used to cover the costs for recreation programs and support staff, as these are considered respite for caregivers. 

Private Funding Options:
Jumpstart can provide funding for registration costs and/or equipment for activities for families who fit the low-income criteria. 

Kerry`s Place will also provide funding, during their application process in January of every year.

See the Funding section of our Online Resource Centre for more available funding options. 
For more information on Recreation, check out the Online Resource Centre

We'd love to hear from you! Did your family have a great experience with an adapted recreation program? Please email us at to share your story and we will profile these stories on our website!

Article contributed by Kelly Lapham, Recreation Therapist, York Support Services Network.