What services are available to help support our family and my child’s development?
You may be feeling as though it will be very complicated to manage all the therapies and supports that will help your child reach developmental milestones. We very much understand those feelings, but please be assured there are many well established, publicly available processes and helpful organizations (such as DSAT) to connect you with the support that you and your child will need.
There are various forms of early intervention therapies that can help support your child’s development in every area. Please note that DSAT is by no means making any recommendations by providing this information and that it is a firmly held belief amongst the DS community that everyone needs to figure out what works for their child and their family. Services below are grouped by type and whether or not they are available for free or privately for a fee.
To help families manage scheduling of these appointments, many of the professionals provide care “in the community” which means they will come to your home and get to know you and your child as they provide support for your family. They will also work collaboratively with you, showing you the approaches to use in your daily routines that will help your child’s development.
Learning that your child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome can be a complicated emotional time for any new parent. Your doctor can refer you to many counselling or psychological therapy services. Listed below are some support services specifically for parents dealing with a new diagnosis for their child.
Furthermore, please know that Toronto Public Health provides a free ecounselling service for anyone who feels they need support.
Toronto Health Service: ecounselling
Click here to learn more about the types of therapy and services to help support children with DS as they develop
For new parents receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child, being introduced to so many specialists can be overwhelming. The following list identifies some of the major therapies and services that DSAT parents have used in supporting their children. There is a brief definition of that therapy or service and a partial list of providers, indicating which are publicly funded.
Occupational Therapy (OT) is broadly defined as support for fine motor skills like finger feeding, manipulating toys, printing etc. In infancy, OT also works on feeding and the early stages of gross motor development (sitting, rolling, crawling). (usually starts by 3 months; earlier for newborn feeding concerns).
- Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) – publicly funded
- Morneau Shepell
- Most hospitals have OT on staff and can refer you for a consultation while your child is a patient there.
Physiotherapy (PT) is broadly defined as support for gross motor skills like sitting, rolling, standing, walking etc. There are several different methods or approaches in the area of PT. (highly variable starting age based on preference)
- Traditional PT
- Cueves Medek Exercises (CME)
- Anat Baniel Method (ABM)
Speech Language Pathology (SLP) is broadly defined as support for communication and comprehension. Early on this can include using sign language, repetition of words and support for parents on how to foster good communication development. (usually starts at 12 months)
- Community Care Access Centre (CCAC)
- Surrey Place Center – publically funded
- Toronto Preschool Speech & Language Services –publically funded
- The Hanen Centre
- Speech Therapy Works
- Morneau Shepell
Developmental Therapy (DT) Developmental therapists do not address one specific area but instead look at a child globally e.g., cognitive skills, language and communication, social-emotional skills and behavior, gross and fine motor skills, and self-help skills. (usually starts at 6-8 months)
Baby Groups help provide an additional source of OT/PT/ other support along with the chance to connect with other families. Babies and parents are welcome as early at 6 months.
- Silvercreek Special Baby Group (co-run by Surrey Place and Centennial)
- VHA Baby and Toddler Rehab Therapy Group – more exercise focused
Early Intervention Supportive Nursery Schools. These centers around the GTA incorporate OT/PT/SLP/DT into a nursery school curriculum for children starting at 18 months – 2 years.
- Centennial Infant and Child Care Center
- Silvercreek Preschool
- Holland Bloorview Nursery Schools – Scarborough and High Park locations
Other therapies and services: In an attempt to offer a wide variety of resources, please see below for some of the options our families have explored. These are all privately available for a fee.
- Oral Placement Therapy (tactile-sensory approach to speech therapy uses therapy tools to train muscle movements for improved feeding safety and speech clarity)
- Osteopathy (focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit)
- Naturopathy (alternative medicine employing a wide array of "natural" treatments, including homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as diet and lifestyle counseling)
- Upper Canada Naturopathic Clinic
- Joan Jory
For families throughout the GTA, there are three initial contacts that can help coordinate support in the first few months of your child’s life.
Surrey Place Centre is the main provider of a coordinated program that helps bridge families into all aspects of services and support that may be helpful for their child.
You can call and ask to speak to an intake coordinator for the Infancy and Early Childhood Program (416-925-5141). You may also receive a referral to Surrey Place Center through your child’s doctor or the geneticists that provided your child’s diagnosis.
The intake coordinator will help determine what services your child needs or is eligible for. They can guide you through the process and will place your child on appropriate wait lists for services. They will also explain the relevant government financial assistance programs and help you to complete applications for those that are appropriate for you.
Centennial Infant and Child Care Centre is another source of early intervention services. The provide similar support and services to Surrey Place Centre but may be a more convenient location for your family. They also have a nursery school program onsite that integrates early interventions and supports into a nursery school curriculum that accepts children starting at 18 months.
Community Care Access Centers - CCAC is the usual provider of occupational therapy (OT) services in infancy. Again a referral can be made by your child’s doctor and an intake coordinator will contact you to provide an initial assessment. From there a plan will be developed to provide in-home therapy visits.