What are respite services for children with special needs?

If you have a child with a diagnosis of any disability, medical related impairment, or behavioural challenges, a respite service can provide you and your family support and relief from the physical and emotional demands involved in caring for your child.

There are many forms of respite services you can inquire about to meet your unique needs. You can get respite care through:

Some programs may include day supports, overnight supports, short-term social groups or virtual supports. 

Types of Respite Care 

Day Respite: For individuals who have multiple needs due to physical and/or developmental disabilities, intensive care and require constant monitoring, day respite provides support. Day respite services can be found through specific organizations across Ontario.

Overnight Respite: For individuals with more complex needs. If you are connected to an organization within Ontario, some organizations may offer an overnight respite service. This service allows for the individuals with complex needs to spend the evening in a safe environment with trained, qualified professionals.

Social Groups and Camps: These groups offer recreation and/or a focus on skill-building for participants. This allows your child to develop skills such as communication and collaboration, build and maintain relationships while engaging in group activities. These groups are often shorter in length, and allow you (the caregiver) an opportunity to take a break and/or complete other tasks that are challenging to complete while caring for your child.

Virtual Respite: Due to COVID-19, many organizations have been supporting families virtually. Virtual respite provides families and caregivers information and resources to alleviate some of the pressures of caring for your child  while being at home. Virtual respite can take place in group settings or with one-on-one personal support to engage your child in the group and activities.

Who can receive respite services?

You might be eligible for respite care support if your child has a diagnosis of any disability, medical related impairment or behavioural challenges. Keep in mind, some respite providers do have age requirements. Typically, a doctor or service provider like and information and referral specialist can determine if you are  eligible . For more information on eligibility criteria, connect with your doctor, school board or service provider on information in your area.

How can I access respite services?

If you are eligible, you can access these services a few ways:

  1. Respiteservices.com connects you to a qualified providers in your region. You will conduct your own interviews so that you can hire the respite provider you feel best supports the job and are most comfortable with. This allows you to build a rapport with the individual and create your own contract tailored to your needs.
  2. If you’re already connected to an organization, you can inquire with them respite services. Even if the organization does not offer that service, someone within may know where you can access respite care. Speak with your Service Coordinator or Navigator for more information.
  3. Virtual respite and recreational respite can be accessed online for individuals/families to access.

It’s important to keep in mind that eligibility will vary based on the organization. If you are connected to an organization, you can inquire about this service through them, or if they are aware of available overnight respite in your area. For information on respite in your area, contact your service coordinator, doctor or school board for more information.

Respite Providers or Care Workers

Respite providers are qualified individuals who have obtained a post-secondary diploma or degree in a related field such as behavioural sciences, recreation therapist, and support workers to name a few. These providers are knowledgeable and passionate about working with individuals who have a disability or limitation in their day-to-day functioning. Anyone who wishes to be a respite provider in Ontario must have a Vulnerable Sector Screening from their local police department and are required to have First Aid and CPR training. Additional requirements may vary within specific organizations. You are encouraged to always ask about the qualifications of a provider.

Paying for Respite Services

If you are experiencing financial difficulties that impact your ability to access this service for your child diagnosed with a disability who is 17 years or younger, the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, has a funding form (Special Services at Home) that offsets some of the costs of respite services. If your adult child has a developmental disability, Passport funding through Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) can offset some of these costs. 

To learn more about funding options for your child, please visit the Special Services at Home page from the Government to Ontario website/

There may also be opportunities to apply for seasonal respite funding through agencies that support developmental disabilities within your region.

Presented by:  Child Development Resource Connection Peel (CDRCP)


Last updated: June 7, 2024 4006487