Appropriate summer activities are crucial for children with special needs for maintaining routine and providing an outlet for all that extra school-is-out energy.

My son has attended all these programs and activities and in my experience, many families with children with special needs have found out about them through word of mouth.

Many parents do not realize that many adapted programs—in particular those offered by the City of Toronto—are low-cost or free. Here are three excellent programs and facilities in Toronto and the GTA for kids with special needs.

SwimAbility Canada

SwimAbility Canada, formerly Making Waves, is a not-for-profit organization that offers adapted swimming lessons for children with disabilities that are private and affordable. There are chapters of SwimAbility throughout the country including Toronto, Mississauga, London and Hamilton.

Children with special needs often are left behind by typical swim programs and SwimAbility was created with the mission to provide swim and water safety instruction with these children in mind. Find program specifics at SwimAbility Toronto, SwimAbility Mississauga, and a full list of locations online.

York Recreation Centre

Opened in 2017, the 67,000-square-foot York Recreation Centre at Eglinton Avenue West and Black Creek Drive offers free specialized programming and adapted classes for children with special needs and disabilities. The facility features accessible fitness equipment and a six lane, 25-metre pool with a ramp and chair-lift.

The York Recreation Centre offers adapted swim programs including swim lessons with a staff-to-swimmer ratio of 1:3. The adapted splash club encourages socialization in the pool and helps children and youth with special needs get comfortable in the water.

Other free adapted summer programs at the York Recreation Centre include art, dance and music classes. These classes require a separate registration process for adapted/specialized programs through Toronto Parks and Recreation.

For more information on free programs at the York Recreation centre call 416-392-9675.

SkyZone Sensory Sessions

All four locations of the SkyZone trampoline parks in the GTA offers sensory sessions for kids with special needs. Every effort is made to accommodate jumpers who have difficulty processing the typical lively and noisy environment of a trampoline park: The music and lighting is turned down and the trampolines are far less crowded.

The cost is only $6 plus tax per guest for 60 minutes of jumping, with free access for one chaperone. The sensory jumps take place every Monday 4–6 pm. This summer the dates are July 10, July 24, August 14, and August 28. Find the SkyZone location nearest you.

Also read: Toronto Summer Programs for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Need more info? Find Toronto-area sports programs, arts programs, and more resources for kids with special needs in our online directory.

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