My child was diagnosed with a disability. What do I do next?

When your child is recently diagnosed with a disability it can be an overwhelming time for the family. There are many challenges involved including limited access to information and resources.

You will be faced with suddenly having to research and learn everything you can about a disability and what you'll need to do next to access supports for your child.

What is a disability?

There are two models of how to define disability:

  • A medical model
  • A social model

Medical Model of Disability

This model is often the most common. It is defined by physical or cognitive impairments which can limit an individual’s ability to function the same as someone without a cognitive or physical disability. When your child is diagnosed with a disability, it is defined under the medical model, and the disability may present in various forms.

According to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005, a disability includes but is not limited to:

  • any form of physical impairment
  • developmental disorders
  • learning disability or difficulty with processing symbols or spoken language
  • injury or disability for which benefits were being claimed under the insurance plan outlined in Workplace Safety Insurance Act, 1997

This model is utilized within most institutions including hospitals and treatment facilities to treat the disability. Through forms of medical cure, the medical model utilizes a variety of practices and intervention techniques to assist the individual with a disability to conform to society. Some of the practices and intervention techniques include:

  • physical rehabilitation
  • behaviour therapy
  • prescribed medication 

Social Model of Disability

This model has been adopted by many disabled communities as it recognizes the difference in function as a positive. It puts pressure on institutions to change systemic barriers, negative attitudes, and the exclusion of people with disabilities in society.

Unlike the medical model, the social model of disability embraces ones’ impairment and focuses on societal barriers that may impede ones’ ability to fully function within society. 

Some of these barriers include:

  • physical barriers in the communities for accessibility.
  • Individuals views on persons with disabilities. This can include people assuming individuals with a disability can’t do certain things.

Steps on Accessing Services

Families have challenges accessing services due to barriers. The most common barriers families face when attempting to access services includes:

  • language barriers
  • location – it is easier to access services in larger cities than it is rural areas.
  • limited resources – this can include access to internet, ability to research and located information 

Below you will find a step by step guide on how you can access services. This guide is using the framework from the Child Development Resource Connection Peel (CDRCP) . If you are outside of Peel, the service path may look slightly different based on your region but you can search for similar services in your area.

Get Information 

You can obtain information through the help of a professional such as a pediatrician, social worker, teacher or an Information and Resource Specialist (IRS). They can help you obtain details pertaining to: 

  • local community programs for your child’s needs
  • physical or behavioural therapy services
  • funding information
  • additional information to support the family 

Get Referred  

Within the Region of Peel, Kids Pathways Peel (KPP) is the front door to access information, resources and referral services. You can refer yourself or get a referral from your pediatrician, family doctor, social worker and/or support worker. Once the referral is made, an Information Resource Service Coordinator (IRSC) will contact you to book an intake. 

In other Regions within Ontario, you may be referred to a specific agency where a Service Coordinator/Service Navigator will contact the family to gather the necessary information to best support your child and family.

Service Coordination uses a family-system approach to assist families who have a child with complex needs in navigating various services such as funding information, treatment and community supports. Service Coordinators will help implement a service plan with other community partners to best assist the child and family.

Complete an Intake

Once you have connected to an organization in your region that offers service coordination, a Service Coordinator will book an intake appointment with the family. This will assist the Service Coordinator in providing the best supports for the child and family by conducting a needs-based assessment. Some of the questions you will be asked are focused around:

  • communication
  • behaviour challenges
  • social functioning
  • daily living skills
  • family needs

Once complete, the Service Coordinator will provide you with information, resources and referrals to services within your region. Some of the information and resources you will obtain consist of but not limited to:

  • funding information
  • live webinar information
  • services pertaining to your child’s diagnosis
  • connections to community partners
  • additional information and/or resources to support the family  

You can search for services similar to the Region of Peel's CDRC outside Peel Region through the P4P Planning Network search directory.

Produced By:
Kids Pathways Peel

 For More Information

  • Tips for Parents on Special Education - Multilingual tip sheets for parents looking for information for a child with special needs,
  • P4P - Pathways 4 Planning is community of resources across Ontario for parents planning the futures of their children with special needs.
  • infoPeel Special Needs - The special needs section of InfoPeel gives you access to resources in the Peel Region.   

Last updated: May 3, 2021 4006442