705-733-3227 info@catulpa.on.ca

Inclusive Recreation iconINCLUSIVE RECREATION

young girl in a pool with paddle board imageInclusive recreation programs provide the opportunity for people with and without disabilities to participate in the same activity. In order for inclusive services to be successful, inclusion must be a value that is shared by all parties involved.

Whether an after school, weekend, swimming or day camp program, municipal parks and recreation departments, private recreation providers and non-profit organizations offer a range of programs geared to meet the interests and abilities of all participants.

Inclusive Recreation can also be referred to as integration, adapted or accessible recreation programs.

Listings of inclusive programs, camps and organizations may be found under Resources in the Partner Links section under the “Inclusive Recreation Guide” heading.


Why should you become involved?

  • enhance physical abilities
  • increase self-esteem, confidence, and independence
  • improve social skills and make new friends
  • develop lifelong recreation attitudes and skills
  • improve overall quality of life

Planning for Success

Tip #1: Start Planning Early
Options for one-to-one support, financial assistance, and program availability are often limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is best to start making arrangements for your recreation programs as early as possible to ensure that the necessary support is available. For general recreation programs that run on a seasonal calendar (Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer), program registrations usually begin two months before the program start date. Summer Camp registration may be open until camp begins; however, many camps fill up quickly with returning campers. Registrations for specialized and private camps may begin in January and be filled by April. Think and plan ahead, and begin contacting programs as early as possible to inquire about registration openings.
Tip #2: Choosing the Right Program
Just like a child, every program has its own set of characteristics that should be factored into your decision of creating a successful experience. Does your child have any specific hobbies or interests? Options can include sports, martial arts, swimming, music, dance, art, nature or computers. Recreation is an your child should enjoy. Does the program provide the right level of structure and routine for your child? A drop-in afterschool program may not have the structure of activities suitable for your child. An outdoor program such as golf or skiing may not be a predictable routine since the week’s class may be cancelled for weather. Consider your child’s needs, likes and the situations they have the most success in as you plan.
Tip #3: Assess the Attitude Towards Inclusion
Does the program mention inclusion or supports for children with special needs in its literature? Some recreation guides include special needs, integration or adapted sections that are separate from their general programs. Just because special needs is not listed in a program description, it does not mean the program isn’t open to providing support. Call the program and ask.  Sometimes all it takes is a request.
Tip #4: Consider Support Needs
Many recreation programs arecognize the need to provide additional support to successfully integrate children with special needs into general recreation programs. Consider the type of support your child needs to be most successful in a recreation setting. Does your child receive support at school? What kind? Does your child need program adaptations? Different support options may be available Adapted Programs are programs provided at a lower staff to participant ratio. Programs and activities are often adapted to meet the needs of your child with special needs and can be a great opportunity for your special needs child to meet other children who may be working to overcome similar barriers. One to One Support programs offer one to one support through extra staffing. These support workers may come at an additional cost (typically an hourly wage) and are assigned to your child for the duration of the program. These workers are typically provided additional training around disabilities, personal care, and program adaptations so they can provide a fully inclusive opportunity for your child. Volunteer Support programs may offer volunteers to provide additional support in a program. Volunteers are a great option if your child is high functioning and requires an extra hand with redirection, staying on task, focusing, etc. Volunteers typically will not provide support around toileting/feeding or high behavior concerns. Your Own Support Worker. Most programs are happy to accommodate a support worker the family provides, whether it is a family member, family friend or respite worker. They should be allowed to attend the program at no charge, providing they follow volunteer policies and produce a criminal reference check. Be sure to contact a camp or recreational program for additional support options before to submitting registration forms. Some programs have a limited amount of spaces for additional support and may not be able to provide this support if registration is already completed.
Tip #5: Provide the Right Information
It is important to provide the recreation staff information about your child’s skills, strengths and challenges to put strategies into place so your child can have a successful, stress free experience. BEFORE the beginning of the program, be sure to provide information about:


  • What your child may find challenging
  • What strategies will help them to suceed
  • Your child’s favourite things and interests
  • Safety concerns you may have

Without the proper information, the support may not be available to ensure safety and security for not only your child, but also the staff, and the other children in the program.

Tip #6: Get Off to a Good Start
Visit the program prior to the start. This allows you and your child the opportunity to view the environment, and possibly meet their instructor. Prepare your child for the start of the program. Get them used to the environment or schedule. Include your child in the preparation by allowing them to pick out their swimsuit, lunch or snack.
Tip #7: Communication
Check in with the instructor to be aware of accomplishments and challenges. Pick the right time to speak with the instructor. If drop-off and pick-up times are busy, see if you can call the instructor at another time, or arrive early the next day. Encourage the instructor to talk with you about effective strategies for working with your child.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Recreation Program


Ask Your Child

  • What are you interested in? (Arts and Crafts, Theater, Sports, Music, Outdoors, etc.)
  • Do you want to participate in a small or large group?
  • Do you want an indoor or outdoor program?

Ask Yourself

  • How close do I want the program to my home or work?
  • How long do I want my child in the program for?
  • Do I want my child to attend a day camp or an overnight camp?
  • How many weeks do I want my child in the program?
  • What kind of supports will my child need to be successful?
  • What are the special needs that I need to inform the program staff of?
  • What are some strategies I can give the program

Ask the Program

  • What does a program session look like?
  • What training does your staff receive?
  • What are the staff to child ratios?
  • How does the program ensure the safety of participants?
  • What type of support does the program offer?
  • What types of activities are planned and what skills do they require?
  • Is the site accessible?
  • Is the program open to inclusive programming?
  • Is the program accredited by any organization?

Remember it’s important to plan ahead. Here is a planning calendar to help.

  • Begin searching for your summer camps! Funding options are distributed fast and camps can fill up quickly!!
  • Start narrowing down options, and finding out about support.
  • Start registering for March Break programs – ask about funding and support.
  • Register for March Break programs.
  • Municipality summer program and camp guides available.
  • Registration begins for municipality spring programs – check your local guide.
  • Registration begins for municipality spring programs.
  • Register for Summer programs and camps.
  • Registration for municipality summer programs – check your local guide.
  • Local municipality Fall/Winter Recreation Guides available.
  • Registration for Fall Programs (August).
  • Begin Searching and considering your funding options. Some applications are available in the fall.
  • Fall programs begin.
  • Begin registering for Winter Break Camps.
  • Winter Recreation Guides available from Municipalities.
  • Registration Opens for Winter program.
  • Winter Camps available over Christmas Break.