Ontario Supporting Children and Youth with Special Needs

Published on August 19, 2021

Province investing nearly $4.5 million to increase access to critical rehabilitation services at KidsAbility



August 19, 2021

WATERLOO — The Ontario government is providing $240 million over four years to increase access to critical rehabilitation services for children and youth with special needs and help them live happier and healthier lives. This investment is part of the 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.

As part of this investment, KidsAbility will receive $4,366,348 in new funding starting this year to build additional service capacity and increase access to preschool speech and language services and community-based and school-based rehabilitation services.

“This funding increase will make a world of difference for children and youth with special needs across Waterloo Region,” said MPP Mike Harris. “KidsAbility already provides life changing support to 9,000 children and youth annually and this investment will expand their capacity to provide services to even more children sooner to help them reach their unique life goals.”

This new funding will improve access to services for children, youth and families at KidsAbility’s sites in Cambridge, Fergus, Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo. Of the $4.3 million investment, $1.1 million will go to Preschool Speech and Language programs, $2.4 million for School Based Rehabilitation Services (SBRS) and the remaining $809,000 will be used for Community Rehab.

“This news comes with much celebration and gratitude at KidsAbility and across our sector. These funds will allow us to begin to address waitlists in the communities we serve and provide children, youth and families with the help that they need sooner,” said Linda Kenny, Chief Executive Officer of KidsAbility. “We believe providing early and exceptional family-centred services for the wellbeing of children, youth and families is the most powerful way to build brighter futures. On behalf of our Board, staff, but most importantly, our families, we thank Premier Ford and Minister Fullerton for investing in our children and youth and thank our local MPPs for their advocacy on behalf of our community.”   

“We know early intervention leads to better long-term outcomes for children and youth. By improving access to assessments and early intervention services, children can begin receiving the services they need sooner,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We are making these investments, so every young person has the best opportunity to achieve their life goals and be set up for success.”

These investments will improve service experiences and outcomes for children and youth with special needs and their families across Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County.


  • When children in Ontario begin school, almost 30 percent have at least one developmental vulnerability that could pose a risk to their lifelong health, learning, and behaviour.
  • Early intervention and children’s rehabilitation services are provided through Ontario’s Preschool Speech and Language program, community-based rehabilitation services or school-based rehabilitation services.
  • In 2019-20, more than 53,000 children received services through Ontario’s Preschool Speech and Language Program.
  • Children’s Treatment Centres also provided School-Based Rehabilitation Services for 71,000 students in publicly funded schools in 2019-20. Over 110,000 children and youth received rehabilitation services (occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech-language pathology) in community-based settings through Children’s Treatment Centres.
  • Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy brings total investments to $16.3 billion to protect people’s health and $23.3 billion to protect our economy. Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan support now totals $51 billion.