How Ontario is Connecting Families with Supports for Children with Special Needs – Health Hint!

Jun 15, 2022

Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness.  We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life.  Check out our latest Health Hint on how the Ontario governments is supporting children with special needs.  We hope you find it helpful.  If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.  

Facts, statistics and the situation in Ontario 

Special needs can include, but are not limited to, communication disorders, physical disabilities, development disabilities, acquired brain injuries, chronic and/or long-term medical conditions. They can include specific diagnoses such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. 

When children in Ontario begin school, almost 30% have at least one developmental vulnerability that could pose a risk to their lifelong health, learning, and behaviour. Past research has showcased that early interventions during the critical window or period of children’s development (birth to 6 years of age) supports improved outcomes for children with special needs. 

How Ontario is Connecting Families with Supports for Children with Special Needs

In order to further support families and children with special needs, the Ontario government is creating 22 new SmartStart Hubs to better connect parents and caregivers with child development services in their communities as soon as possible. These new Hubs will function as a clear point of entry to services for children and families as well as bring together local professionals in early intervention and child development services to provide coherent connections to assessments and services. 

Children’s Treatment Centres across Ontario, and Surrey Place in Toronto, will begin implementing the new SmartStart Hubs in April 2022. SmartStart Hubs will serve children and youth up to the age of 19, or up to age 21 if they are in school and residing in Ontario. 

SmartStart Hubs will function to provide seamless and accessible services to local services including: 

  • A clear point of entry to services 
  • A consistent way of delivery services 
    • For example, staff from SmartStart Hubs will talk with each family about their concerns as well as their child’s and family’s strengths, goals and needs 
    • Streamlined connections to assessments and services, including speech and language pathology services, occupational therapy and physical therapy so that families feel supported without having to retell their story to each new provider
  • Early access to family-based supports – Respite services and parent coaching

Many of the Hubs’ services, including exploratory conversations, may be accessible by phone or video chat for familieswho cannot easily access their nearest SmartStart Hub. All 22 Hubs across Ontario are expected to be delivering services to families by the end of this year (Government of Ontario, March 2022). 

We hope you liked our latest Health Hint!

Written by Angelika Aziz

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Government of Ontario. “Ontario Connecting More Families with Supports for Children with Special Needs.” 29 March 2022, Accessed 15 May 2022.

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