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Home for the Holidays: Tips and Resources for Parents and Caregivers of kids with Special Needs

Please note: The information provided in this tipsheet is for reference only. It is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement of organizations, news sources, agencies or private businesses, or as a comprehensive resource list.

A list of resources and information based on a joint webinar by the Bloorview School Authority, the Toronto District School Board and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. It lists ideas and tools to support routines, stay socially connected and to support mental health during this period of isolation and physical distance.

Please contact community providers directly with program-specific questions.  At the end of the document are some Q & A from the webinar which might be helpful.

Programs & Supports Available during the Holidays

Autism Ontario
Has activities going on during the holiday break including Kwanzaa Craft Kit, Teen Christmas Trivia, Parent & Caregiver Paint Night, Sing-Along with young ones. See all events here.

My Community Hub
An online space where individuals with a developmental disability and their families can find programs from a variety of organizations.

Holland Bloorview
Virtual connection platforms available for clients and families:

  • ASD Engage – A weekly podcast for parents and families of children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 
  • Isofriendships - A podcast that explores what social connection means for youth living with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HB Alumni Network - An alumni network for clients (13+), families and caregivers to connect, share experiences and help us improve care and services.
  • Parent Voices @ Holland Bloorview Facebook
     

Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
Has a Resources for Parents section of their website which includes many opportunities to stay connected to your school community:

Resources for Building Routines

ConnectABILITY
A website and virtual community dedicated to lifelong learning and support for people with disabilities, their families and support networks. Find links on their website including templates for Creating your Own Visuals

Erin Oak Kids
Resources for families to help build routine and structure at home through their Virtual Learning Hub including Daily Living Skills, Daily Schedules, Visual Supports

Geneva Centre for Autism
Provides resources on their Daily Schedule page including examples of choice boards, a visual gallery and free downloads to help structure your family’s daily schedule.

Holland Bloorview
Tipsheets for families geared to the living in the context of COVID-19 including this Sample Daily Learning Schedule. Find more tipsheets and resources for families here.

Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
Has helpful resources for families to support children with Autism and other who may benefit from visual supports and social stories:


STAR Institute
Sample routines and activities. More details available here.

Raisingchildren.net
Building routines as a family. More details available here.

Household Chores for Children

Check out these articles for ideas on building chores into your routines for children at home:

Household chores help children learn important skills, explore interests and feel good about contributing to family life. Choose household chores that suit children’s ages and abilities.

Many strategies and communication tools already being used at home work well for helping children to learn new skills and responsibilities.

Examples include: showing, visual checklists, first-then boards, visual schedules etc.

Resources for Staying Socially Connected through Physical Distancing

For Parents & Caregivers

ConnectABILITY

Has a section of their website focused on COVID-19 Resources.  Find links on their website including

Holland Bloorview’s Parent Support Network


Partners for Planning (P4P)
Can help you find many ways to connect with other families during this time of physical distancing. These include:

For Children and Youth (All Ages)

Abilities Centre
Offers virtual activities that are fully inclusive with fun variations. More details are available here. To register: Please contact Adam Fitzpatrick at 905-665-8500 ext. 222. Please note that programs may cost a fee.

Erin Oak Kids


Play at Home (Jumpstart)
Fun activity ideas to help keep kids active at home and guided videos featuring Olympic and Paralympic athletes. More details available here.

Unstoppable Kids Daily Challenge (Jay’s Care Foundation)
Work through as many of the challenges as you can. Submit photo proof to potentially win prizes. More details available here.

Toronto Public Library

Workout of the Day (YMCA Niagara)
Follow along to workout videos. More details and a variety of options, including gentle stretching and chair yoga available here.

For Children 0-6 years

EarlyON Centres

  • EarlyON centres offer free programs for families and children from birth to 6 years old across Toronto and Ontario. They are now running a great number of virtual programs.
  • You can learn and play with your child, meet people and get advice from early childhood professionals. Find a virtual EarlyON programming here. Check out examples of virtual program schedules from Macaulay Child Development Centre and Mothercraft.

You can find virtual EarlyON programs in languages other than English, including French, Hindi, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Urdu and more.

Holland Bloorview’s Family Circle Time
Check out 5 videos of song circles to help your children have fun, connect and work on early transitional life skills. You can find all 5 on Holland Bloorview’s YouTube channel available here or choose a Family Circle Time below:

For Youth and Young Adults

ConnectABILITY
Has a section of their website focused on COVID-19 Resources 


Corbrook (through ConnectABILITY.ca)
Free workshops that offer the opportunity to gain new skills, explore topics of interest and meet new people. Topics may include: Mindfulness, Arts and Crafts, Money Management, Pre-Employment Training, Yoga and Fitness, Cooking and more. More details available here. To register contact: louise.scott@corbrook.com   irene.cvetkovski@corbrook.com

Dreamweavers
Offers group and individual programming for teens and young adults. Virtual programs include “Let’s Talk About Sex + Relationships” and “Connections Social Group. More details available here. To register contact: dreamweaverscollective@gmail.com

Holland Bloorview’s Isofriendships Podcast
Holland Bloorview Youth Leaders share their experiences and insights with friendship in times of social isolation. Learn more about the podcast here.

Resources to Support Mental Health

 

For Parents & Caregivers

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)


Partners for Planning (P4P)
Places you can connect with groups or call to speak with someone to get some support


What’s Up Walk-in Counselling (Yorktown Children’s Mental Health Services)
Free, short-term counselling for families and caregivers that is accessible without appointment during designated times across the City of Toronto.  For more information see here.

Action for Happiness
Coping calendar: daily acts that can help us look after ourselves and support each other


Headspace
Resources such as meditation, movement exercises, music and more help you look after your mind, build resilience, and improve sleep

Culturally-specific supports

“It takes a Village” Black Parent Support Group
For Black caregivers of children and adults with disabilities December 8, 7: – 8:30 pm. January 12, 2020, 7 – 8:30 p.m. To register or submit questions ahead of the meeting – please e-mail BPSGroup2020@gmail.com

Native Women’s Resource Centre - Pimaatisiwin (a good way of life)
A parenting program that provides learning opportunities, parenting support, resources and cultural activities for families with young children, as well as programs for youth and young adults. Contact:  support.request@nwrct.cawww.facebook.com/nwrct/, @NWRCT

South Asian Autism Awareness Centre CARES program for caregivers 
A family support program aimed at increasing caregiver capacity to support the development of children with autism. Find more details and registration information here or contact info@saaac.org / 416-289-0100

Spirit of Life/Heep Chi
Founded by a group of Chinese families with members who have a developmental disability. Families support one another by sharing information, knowledge, experience and resources. Contact 905-474-9500 or info@solhc.ca

 

For Children 0-6 years
Mindheart

  • Has published COVIBOOK, a short story authored by Manuela Molina aimed at young children to support them in processing emotions through repetitive play and stories read multiple times. Available in 20 different languages.


EarlyON
Many of the virtual EarlyON programs are specific to supporting the mental health of young children 0-6 years of age, such as Peaceful Moments and Yoga group and Growing Bodies, Healthy Minds.

 

For Children and Youth (All Ages)

Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO)
Has many tools and resources on their website including their Family Care Centre where you can find:

  • Tips and ideas to help your family support your child’s mental health and manage the holidays in a pandemic.

  • Back to school mental health kit

  • Parenting Survival Guide for caring for kids living with mental health challenges

  • COVID-19 resources for supporting children with anxiety through the pandemic

  • General resources for parents concerned with their child’s mental health


Erin Oak Kids
Has links related to supporting your child’s mental health in their Virtual Learning Hub including:


Holland Bloorview
Tipsheets for families on Mental Health-related topics


Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
Has a Mental Health and Wellbeing section of their Resources for Parents page which includes information about:


Stay at Home Kits (Young Caregivers Association)
Sibling-specific resources about stress management, feelings, and resilience. More details available here.

ConnectABILITY
A resource page for Mindfulness and Children

For Youth and Young Adults

Black Youth Helpline
Serves all youth and specifically responds to the need for a Black you specific service, positioned and resourced to promote access to professional, culturally appropriate support for you, families and schools. More info here or call 416-285-9944, Toll-free 1-833-294-8650.

Griffin Centre

  • Offers specific supports to individuals with a dual diagnosis from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds that have experienced barriers in accessing services due to culture, religion and/or language. Call 416-222-3563 or find more information here.
  • Also provides free counselling to 2SLGBTQ youth 12-18 years in their ReachOUT program. For more information contact reachOUT@griffincentre.org or Tai Vo, Supervisor, reachOUT at 416-559-8565


Holland Bloorview’s Isofriendships Podcast
Holland Bloorview Youth Leaders share their experiences and insights with friendship in times of social isolation. Learn more about the podcast here.

What’s Up Walk-in Counselling Youthline
Free, short-term counselling for youth and young adults that is accessible without appointment during designated times across the City of Toronto. Learn more here

Walk-in for Youth with Developmental Disabilities or Autism

  • Strides Toronto and Surrey Place Centre have partnered to launch a virtual ‘What’s up’ Walk In clinic for children and youth (ages 0 to 29 years of age) living with ASD or developmental disabilities.
  • Call Mental Health Toronto (MHTO)1-866-585-6486, open Monday-Friday 9am7-pm to ask about this specific service. 

 


We encourage you to visit our  websiteto access all of our COVID-19 or Coronavirus specific family tip sheets. If you are looking for other family resources that have to do with childhood disability, please visitwww.hollandbloorview.ca/resourcecentre.

Created by Stephanie Moynagh, Family Support Specialist; the Bloorview School Authority and the Toronto District School Board on December 22, 2020.  If you have a question or a resource to share, please feel free to reach out to us at resourcecentre@hollandbloorview.ca