Accessing Disability Supports as a Newcomer

     You may have received a diagnosis from a doctor or medical practitioner that your child has a physical, developmental, learning, or temporary disability. You may also be a parent or guardian of a child whose disability has been diagnosed for a while, but you recently came to Canada and need new supports. It is normal to feel uncertain or overwhelmed at first, as many families do. There are resources in place to support you and prioritize your child’s well-being while acknowledging your status as a newcomer who may need additional supports.


     Recognize first that having a disability does not cause disadvantages. It is how our society has been set-up that may create social exclusion or obstacles in accessibility. Take a look at how our infrastructure has been built wherever we go. We have stairs and escalators. What if these were all ramps and elevators? If our society was also constructed for those with walking impairments, it would be less challenging to move around in these spaces. Emphasize how the environment around your child, and not your child, is responsible for barriers when it comes to health, education, and even attitude.


What should you do first?

Speak to your family doctor for more information about the disability. Although it varies for each person, it is useful to understand what your child’s disability means. You can also do some research about your child’s rights as a person with disabilities. Understanding disability rights within Canada can ensure that your child or family is aware of the steps they can take if they are mistreated by an individual or organization. Use reliable sources and government links like the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Their website is available in English and French, where they share statistics, news, and legal rights.


     After getting more informed, connect with infoPeel to use their Community Services directory or Special Needs Services directory to search programs in Peel. If you need help, chat with an Information and Referral Specialist by clicking on the “Chat with Us” button on the bottom right. To speak with them, call at 905-890-9432. Free translation services are also available if needed. The Specialists can help you search for appropriate programs, therapy services, funding, and any other related information.


       For families that need more guidance, you can direct yourself or ask infoPeel to direct you to Kids Pathways Peel (KPP). KPP helps families navigate services by understanding their needs through an intake. An intake is a phone interview conducted by an Information and Referral Specialist with the family that can take about 45 minutes to an hour. By discussing the child’s behaviour, environment, and preferences, the Specialist can determine which forms of supports are needed for the child and the family. These services range from funding information, workshops or webinars, local services, or referrals to community partners.


       Through these steps, you can find the right supports. It may feel overwhelming, but there are people to help. If speaking or understanding English is a concern, it is important to note that many programs in Peel offer translation services. Along with organizations having translators, there is an abundance of diversity within our community. We speak Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Polish, Tagalog, Spanish, Mandarin, and various other languages. We have established communities with different ethnic, religious, or racial backgrounds who can relate to your experiences. Whether it be teachers in a classroom or religious leaders in places of worship, there are community members who can guide you. Use your community as a resource and ask them for help when things seem difficult—we are here to support you.