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A monthly meeting for the parents or guardians of children with all types of disabilities/special needs to meet, greet and share experiences.

A Facilitator is present to guide discussions and provide links to resources. Meetings alternate monthly between guest speakers on topics identified to be of interest by participants and usually a presentation by a service provider followed by informal discussion and information sharing.

Members may also opt to receive regular updates on relevant information services and workshops.

Being part of the Walking in My Shoes parent group (WIMS) has opened windows for the MacDougall family. Before their involvement in WIMS they felt that they were trying many doors and paths that were blocked in their quest to receive a correct diagnosis for their son, Spencer, and to find the right services to help him have the best life possible.

Christina first heard about WIMS from a neighbour who had attended the group and found some great services that were making a difference for her son. This was back in 2009, just after the WIMS parent group was founded. Christina asked to come along with her friend to the next meeting and that marked the beginning of an eight-year commitment to the group.

At first her husband, Stephen, stayed home to look after their son, but he heard from Christina about all she had learned from WIMS – the strategies and services that could help. He also listened as Christina shared the experiences of parents who were further along the path and how she was able to share their family’s experiences with the parents of younger children. Eventually, Stephen could come along to the meetings to hear for himself and to share his perspective as a father. Both describe how attending together was very beneficial for their son, as they both heard the information and knowledge shared and were able, as a couple, to present a united front to help Spencer.

Christina says, “WIMS gave us hope, we could share the joys and the conflicts involved in bringing up our son. We could see a path forward. For us it is really important to participate in the group, to share our experiences, and to learn from others. We hope that other parents will benefit as much as we have.”

The MacDougall Family


CENTRAL LOCATION: Citizen Advocacy, 1Community Place, 312 Parkdale Ave, Ottawa, ON K1Y 4X5

Meetings are held the 3rd Tuesday of the month, September to June, 7:00-9:00 pm.

September 18. 2018

October 16, 2018

November 20, 2018

December 18, 2018

January 15, 2019

February 19, 2019

March 19, 2019

April 16, 2019

May 21, 2019

June 18, 2019

Pre-registration is encouraged – please email or call 613-761-9522.


To provide parents with:

  • access to a group of parents who have similar concerns and feelings related to their child’s special needs
  • information/resources from other parents, facilitator and guest speakers
  • the opportunity to share in a supportive and non-judgmental setting
  • the opportunity to develop a support network
  • the opportunity to collectively advocate for services/funding
  • the opportunity to plan parent/child/family group activities

  • parents will feel less isolated
  • parents will feel empowered to support their child’s needs
  • parents will develop a network of support and resources
  • parents will increase their knowledge of the tools and support available to advocate for service
  • families with children with special needs will have the opportunity to plan and participate in family activities in the community.

Darlene Donnelly, WIMS Facilitator, has extensive experience working with children with special needs, including supporting their families. She has a deep knowledge of the available resources and services in the community.

Attendance at the meetings is free of charge.  There is an optional $25 membership fee. Your membership helps to fund the program and allows Citizen Advocacy to demonstrate to funders that the program is needed and supported by the community. Members can also opt to receive regular community resource and workshop information emails. Please complete the form below.


If yes, please list your other children's dates of birth.


There is a voluntary $25 membership fee. The fee helps fund the program, demonstrates to funders that the program is needed and supported by the community. Regular community resource and workshop information emails are sent to all members. Members may opt not to receive these resource emails but will still receive WIMS meeting reminders.


Are there activities, topics or guest speakers you would like this group to include?

You will be given the option of paying by PayPal or by credit card. If you would prefer to pay in person just submit the form and your fee will be collected at the next WIMS meeting.

The first WIMS meeting was held on October 20, 2009. That meeting and those that followed were all about getting to know each other and discovering the needs and goals for the group. It was decided that WIMS would be a parent-led group with Janet Robinson as the facilitator.

At first, WIMS was totally volunteer-driven and everything was free. In 2013, Robinson realized that to ensure WIMS’ continuity and long-term sustainability the support and commitment of an established agency was essential. Citizen Advocacy (CA) was approached to run WIMS as one of its programs.

Citizen Advocacy with guidance and support from Janet Robinson ran the program until June 2016. This was when Janet Robinson decided the time was right to retire. Citizen Advocacy wishes her well in her retirement and are proud to carry on her legacy by continuing to facilitate the group in accordance with its goals and objectives.


Darlene Donnelly


613-761-9522 ext. 236


“WIMS was a foreign concept to me when I first came. I was not sure of what to expect from a group of parents and caregivers providing support to one another. After all, if you can barely keep your own head above water how would it help to submerge yourself in other people’s problems? I was also afraid of talking and making the problems real.

I went to my first meeting thinking it would be my last. I remember opening my mouth to speak and feeling overwhelmed with grief as we were asked to tell our names and our children’s (child’s) diagnosis… WIMS has helped me to become a better parent and advocate for my children. I have learned from other parents and speakers how to navigate a system which can be overwhelming. It has helped to lay a foundation for me to continue to build on. The parents have turned out to be my safe harbour in the storm.”

Pamela Walsh



We have assembled a number of resources that may be helpful to you. We do not endorse or recommend any program offered by another agency. You should always do your own research, including checking references.


Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – a network of community-based health and resource centres which recognizes the importance of responding to the diversity of needs within local communities and pays particular attention to those members of the community who are most vulnerable and at risk.

Families Matters Coop Inc Exit Disclaimer – for families and their family members with developmental disabilities.

Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – We are an inclusive community that welcomes, values and supports the diversity, participation and contribution of its citizens, including those who live with disabilities and their families.

REACH Exit Disclaimer –  Promoting Equality and Justice for People with Disabilities

Advocacy & Social Action (Disabilities) – Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – seeks to influence legislation to benefit disabled people or to achieve specific social or political goals. They also intercede on behalf of individuals and/or groups to ensure they receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled and that their rights guaranteed by law are protected and enforced.

These are some charities in the Ottawa area. Each has its own criteria.

The Max Keeping Fund for Kids Exit Disclaimer   may provide financial assistance for your child.

The President’s Choice® Children’s Charity (PCCC) Exit Disclaimer  dedicated to helping children who are physically or developmentally challenged.

Jennifer Ashleigh Foundation Exit Disclaimer – assists children who are chronically or seriously ill, are 21 years of age or under and whose permanent residence is in Ontario.

Easter Seal Society Exit Disclaimer – grants for incontinence supplies for children and youth.

Military Police Fund For Blind Children Exit Disclaimer – a fund for children under 21 years who have a visual impairment or blindness. It is for all families not just those in the military.

Canadian Tire Foundation for Families Exit Disclaimer – delivers support to children in financial need through a Canadian-wide network of local chapters.

Ceridian Cares Exit Disclaimer  to improve the quality of life in our communities by providing financial assistance to individuals and families that need it most.

CanChild Exit Disclaimer

Child Mind Institute Exit Disclaimer

ConnectABILITY Exit Disclaimer – dedicated to supporting people who have special needs, their families and support networks.

Inclusion Exit Disclaimer – offers resources, training tools, articles and more on inclusion Exit Disclaimer – offers books, articles and support to families, caregivers, physicians and teachers

Our Differently Abled Adult Children Facebook Group Exit Disclaimer – a forum where parents of adult children with developmental disabilities (including Autism) can share and discuss their experiences.

LiveWorkPlay Exit Disclaimer

Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members. Respite programs provide planned short-term and time-limited breaks for families and other unpaid care givers of children and adults with a disability in order to support the primary care giving relationship. Respite also provides a positive experience for the person receiving care.

Costs range from $14 to $30 per hour; $30 to $250 per day, $150 – $519 for a weekend.

ACSD, Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities Exit Disclaimer – funded respite is available to families of people who qualify as developmentally disabled in Ontario

Special Services Worker Bank Exit Disclaimer – information and links to respite services for children & adults.

OCAPDD Ottawa Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Exit Disclaimer – respite services in a respite home

Association pour l’integration sociale d’Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – respite in French

Association québécoise des troubles d’apprentissage Section Outaouais Exit Disclaimer – respite in French for a child with ADHD – low cost

Blackburn Agency Exit Disclaimer – residential and respite services for youth

Sonshine Families Exit Disclaimer – respite weekends at Sonshine Cove all year & summer camp

Christian Horizon Exit Disclaimer – day respite, in-home respite, out of home, summer program, therapeutic respite program.

Partners in Parenting Exit Disclaimer – respite care in one of their foster homes

Greenland County Haven Exit Disclaimer – overnight respite, summer & March break camps

TIPES Exit Disclaimer – respite services are available after school and by appointment on evenings and weekends and offered to children and teens between the ages of 2-18

In a Pinch Childcare Services Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – a nanny agency offers short-term babysitting with qualified baby sitters

Hiring someone yourself  good respite providers listen to the family and do what they say with the children, follow the routines. It is important to see in advance that the state of the house where the child will be is calm & uncluttered.

Facebook closed group Exit Disclaimer – parents can post an add or find individuals who post their availability. As with all caregivers it is always important to check references and have the individual spent time with your child in your presence to see if they are competent and a good fit for your child and family.

A Developmental Services or Child & Youth or Social Service worker or student who has been in placement in a classroom or group home or home.

For DSW Developmental Service Worker students email your DSW job posting for a DSW student to Algonquin College Developmental Services Worker Program to Carl Toole Exit Disclaimer and provide this information: location, hours, pay or volunteer and a description of the job.

Carleton University CU Hire Exit Disclaimer – the website explains how to go about posting a job opportunity.

University of Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – a free job posting service for the students at U of O.

EA (Education Assistant) who wants extra work – try the teachers’ website, or ask Special Ed teachers to check the site for you

Put an ad on Kijiji Exit Disclaimer for someone with experience and/or education (DSW-Developmental Service Worker, CYW- Child & Youth Worker, SSW -Social Service Worker etc.), giving hours & pay –generally tremendous response, but not all suitable & qualified – but some parents have found amazing respite workers

Buddy Families – If families make friends with others with children of similar ages & similar needs, then families may be able to have their children stay over with each other and get a break that way.

Recreation/Social – while children participate in activities parents have a few hours to run errands etc.

City of Ottawa Special Needs programs Exit Disclaimer – give children, youth and adults with special needs, the opportunity to participate in year round programs that provide recreation and social programming.

Nurse on Board Exit Disclaimer

Henson Trusts Exit Disclaimer

Ontario Child Benefit Exit Disclaimer

Ontario Tax Credits Exit Disclaimer

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) Exit Disclaimer

Mainstreet Community Services Exit Disclaimer  is a registered charity that valiantly attempts to address a critical need by developing and implementing comprehensive, research based programs for children who are challenged by a disability or exceptionality

Family Services à la famille Ottawa (FSFO) Exit Disclaimer is dedicated to the health and well-being of the people of Ottawa. Our services are accessible, effective and our professional staff are talented and committed.

211 Ontario Exit Disclaimer – Access to community, social, health and related government services in Ontario.

The Community Information Centre of Ottawa  Exit Disclaimer  provides information about a wide range of services in the Ottawa area (e.g. community services, health, social services, government services). They are perhaps best known for their famous ‘Blue Book’, which is a Directory of Ottawa Community Services.

Children’s Integration Support Services (CISS) Exit Disclaimer – is a bilingual program which provides support services to licensed nursery schools, day care centres, school age and home child care programs that integrate children who have special needs between the ages of six weeks and ten years of age in the City of Ottawa.

Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre Exit Disclaimer – OCTC is a leader in providing specialized care for those with multiple physical, developmental, and associated behavioural needs, focusing on our Region’s children and youth.

Service Coordination Exit Disclaimer – Service Coordination assists people in our community who have a developmental disability and/or autism. They help access the supports and services that are available.

Ottawa Special Equipment Exchange Exit Disclaimer – a Facebook group where parents can sell/buy/give away equipment their child has outgrown.

Down Syndrome Association- National Capital Region Exit Disclaimer – Learn about issues, activities and resources relevant to those with Down Syndrome in the Ottawa and surrounding area.

Autism Ontario Ottawa Chapter  Exit Disclaimer – provides information, support, resources and advocacy to advance the quality of life for persons affected by ASDs within our community. The Ottawa Chapter has been in existence for over 30 years and was one of the first chapters.

Crossroads Children’s Centre Exit Disclaimer – an accredited mental health agency providing specialized services to children under the age of 12 with severe emotional and behavioral issues.

First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa | Services in Child Communication Exit Disclaimer  – provides information on how babies and young children learn to talk,tips on what parents can do to help their children to speak, services where parents and preschool children can get the help they need.

Children at Risk, Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – is a community-support charity for Autistic children and their families. Established in 1979, Children at Risk strives to complement existing government-funded supports – filling in the gaps with Social Skill groups, Sibling Support Groups, educational workshops and information seminars. All of our services are financed by donations and fundraising activities, which require volunteers throughout the year.

T.I.P.E.S. Exit Disclaimer Thinking in Pictures Educational Services – a non-profit educational and therapeutic service that provides support to children aged 2-18 years who have PDD (eg. Autism) and related or additional exceptionalities.

Emerging Minds Exit Disclaimer  a treatment centre for children and youth on the autism spectrums.

Building Blocks Exit Disclaimer – a program based on behavioural intervention to provide families with direct “hands on” training and programming for their children in the home environment.

Quick Start Exit Disclaimer – early intervention for Autism

Autism Road Map Exit Disclaimer – a guide for navigating the system if you suspect your child has autism

Autism Advocacy Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – making Sense of Autism support and services in the National Capital Region

Spectrum Intervention Group Exit Disclaimer  – use evidence-based procedures to help learners diagnosed with an autism spectrum or related disorders achieve meaningful gains in their home, school, and community.

Special Education in Ontario Exit Disclaimer

Ontario Special Needs Roadmap Exit Disclaimer – provides useful information to help navigate the education system in Ontario for all special needs children.

Edu-Advocates Exit Disclaimer – specializes in facilitating special education needs. Our goal is to help individuals meet their full educational potential, by providing advocacy and consultation to families, students, teachers and school boards.

No Child Without Program Exit Disclaimer – a charitable program that offers all elementary school aged children with medical conditions or allergies, free MedicAlert protection regardless of their financial resources.

Total Communication Environment (TCE) Exit Disclaimer – services include Community Residences, Community Short-Term Respite Services, Day Supports/Community Support Services, Long Term Care Outreach

Ottawa Carleton Lifeskills Inc. Exit Disclaimer – a non-profit agency with a mission to serve developmentally delayed adults with residential and day programs.

Lifetime Networks Exit Disclaimer – a core program of Citizen Advocacy and exists to facilitate the establishment of, and ensure the continuance of, a loving and caring Personal Network in the lives of persons with a disability.

Partners for Planning Exit Disclaimer  helps you navigate each step and life stage, empowering you with all the right tools and inspiration along the way.

Y’s Owl Maclure Co-operative Centre Exit Disclaimer  creates day time opportunities including employment for people with disAbilities.

LiveWorkPlay Exit Disclaimer  a charitable organization that supports a good life for people with intellectual disabilities through citizenship, self-advocacy, and community partnerships. LiveWorkPlay believes in an individualized and non-program approach that emphasizes personal planning and support networks.

TAMIR Exit Disclaimer  offers a variety of services in response to community need.

L’Arche Ottawa  Exit Disclaimer

Christian Horizons Exit Disclaimer – is committed to providing supports that are person-centered.

Seniors on Site – SOS Exit Disclaimer – in-home care for families and seniors in Ottawa: Child care, home care and elder care Exit Disclaimer – backup child care and babysitting services.

Access2 Entertainment Exit Disclaimer – free admission for support persons accompanying persons with disabilities to movie theatres across Canada.

Fun and Function Exit Disclaimer – Specialized toys: sensory toys, educational games, weighted blankets, etc

Special Finds Exit Disclaimer – Specialized toys: sensory toys, educational games, weighted blankets, etc

CHEO Program Navigator Exit Disclaimer 

Propeller Dance Exit Disclaimer

Dandelion Dance Exit Disclaimer

Zach’s List Exit Disclaimer – a place where families with special needs children can trade equipment and share advice and experience regarding equipment.

STRIDE Wheelchairs Plus Recycling Depot Exit Disclaimer – used equipment for sale or rental.

Around the Campfire Exit Disclaimer – a program open to ALL children with Special Needs. It focuses on helping children socialize through music, rhymes and stories. 

Miracle League of Ottawa Exit Disclaimer

Music Therapist Exit Disclaimer

Yoga therapy Exit Disclaimer – for children with special needs.

Lotus Centre Exit Disclaimer  – is a not-for-profit organization which was founded to meet a community need for specialized music education.

One More Thing (OMT) Exit Disclaimer – an Ottawa-based Facebook group for parents who are caregivers of children with special needs.

City of Ottawa Special Needs programs Exit Disclaimer – give children, youth and adults with special needs, the opportunity to participate in year round programs that provide recreation and social programming.

Making Waves Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – provides affordable and accessible one-on-one swimming instruction to children with special needs

Frugal Fun Ottawa Exit Disclaimer

Capital City Condors Exit Disclaimer – an ice hockey team for youth who have been deemed ineligible to play on any other hockey team in the City of Ottawa due to a disability. Players are ages 6 and up, of all ability levels.

Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing Exit Disclaimer – instruction provided for all ages including in sit ski equipment for those whose mobility is very limited.

Happy Trails Recreation Program Exit Disclaimer – provides a personalized riding program for  children with special needs.

Special Olympics Ontario – Ottawa Exit Disclaimer – provides year-round sports training and competition opportunities for individuals with an intellectual disability.

TROtt Exit Disclaimer – provides therapeutic riding programming for children and adults.

Ottawa Parents of Children with Apraxia (OPCA) Exit Disclaimer – a parent support group organized to support families dealing with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) and raise awareness of the speech disorder in the community.

Dandelion Dance Company Exit Disclaimer – offers life changing programs that bring girls of all backgrounds and abilities together to use their “lived” experience in the collective creation of dance works.

Gloucester Association for Children with Special Needs (GACSN) Exit Disclaimer – dedicated to providing Special Needs children with a fun Saturday afternoon of swimming, crafts, and meeting friends.

Propeller Dance Exit Disclaimer – dance programming to people with and without disability.

Ottawa Therapy Dogs Exit Disclaimer

The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs  Exit Disclaimer (FRP) – promotes the well-being of families by providing national leadership, consultation and resources to those who care for children and support families

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Group of Ottawa Exit Disclaimer  – parents and professionals caring for persons of all ages affected by alcohol before birth.

City of Ottawa Recreation Exit Disclaimer – all recreation programs offered within the City’s Parks and Recreation branch are

Epilepsy Ottawa Carleton Exit Disclaimer – a non-profit organization that strives to provide information and support to those living with or affected by seizure disorders.

Ottawa Parents of Special Needs Exit Disclaimer – a Facebook group



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Tel/Tel. 613-761-9522
TTY/ATS: 613-725-6175

Toll Free/Sans Frais: 1-866-222-2138
Fax/Télécopie: 613-761-9525

312 av. Parkdale Ave.,
Ottawa, ON, K1Y 4X5

Charitable Registration Number/Numéro d’enregistrement d’organisme de bienfaisance
13036 2817 RR0001