Funded in part by a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation




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.

“I have been participating in Walking in My Shoes (WIMS) for many years, way back to the very first meetings in 2009. Although I am not able to fit every meeting into my schedule, every time I do attend one, I walk away with so many ideas to implement. The other parents share an abundance of ideas with the group. There is always at least one thing that someone else says that causes me to think of a great idea to implement with my son, to help him in his developmental journey. Between the electronic information that is distributed weekly, the presentations by guest speakers and the parent network that is the core of the WIMS community, WIMS has been an invaluable support to me over many years and consequently, to the on-going growth and development of my son with autism.”

Janet Stewart


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

Meetings are held the 2nd Tuesday of the month, September to June, 7:00-9:00 pm.

September 10, 2019

October 8, 2019

November 12, 2019

December 10, 2019

January 14, 2019

February 11, 2020

March 10, 2020

April 14, 2020 – CANCELLED

May 12, 2020 – CANCELLED

June 9, 2020

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

Tuesday, March 10
Making Daily Routines and Transitions Successful with Merran Campbell
Merran is a Behaviour Consultant with the CHEO Behaviour Services team.  The Behaviour Services team works with individuals who have interfering behaviours with a variety of diagnosis across the entire lifespan.

Some transitions or routines can be difficult as there may be meltdowns, resistance of the ‘next step’ during a transition or lack of understanding of what is expected.  Join us to learn useful and effective strategies to make everyday routines and transitions manageable.

Tuesday, April 14 – CANCELLED
Coping and managing life’s stresses and challenges as a parent and/or caregiver of an individual with a disability

Discover some strategies for managing your stress and daily challenges to improve quality of life.  When caregivers or parents are rested and feeling calm and in control, they can accomplish more and feel more satisfied in their personal and family life.
Lillian Kitcher and Teresa MacMillan are both Parent Navigators with the CHEO Navigator Program. Both have lived experience with caring for a child with medical complexities, and Amélie DesLauriers has over 13 years of experience in social work; she has worked with: foster parents, children/youth with complex needs, individuals with special needs and their families, and the school system.    All have useful and insightful tips and strategies to share.

Tuesday, May 12 – CANCELLED
Transitioning from High School with Stephanie King, OCDSB
Join us to learn more about the services to access, and opportunities that exist for youth transitioning from high school.  The process for transitioning out of school happens long before the last year of school! Learn what you need to know and be prepared.

Tuesday, June 9
Informal Discussion and Information Sharing and Video
Join us to start the year off right and watch a short but impactful video followed with discussion.

Learn some new, effective ideas to manage daily challenges and meet others to share information.

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.



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.


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.

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




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

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.

OCTC/CHEO  Exit disclaimer – OCTC/CHEO 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

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. 

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

PLEO (Parent Life Lines of Eastern Ontario)  Exit disclaimer– for families coping when their child has mental health challenges

Steps to Justice  Exit disclaimer– information and next steps to help you deal with your legal problems

The Miracle League of Ottawa  Exit disclaimer– a fully accessible recreational facility

Gleeceptional  Exit disclaimer– a Glee Club for children, teenagers and your adults with exceptionalities

Musicability  Exit disclaimer– an all inclusive choir, all ages, all abilities

Spectrum Insights  Exit disclaimer– social life and life skills development, social groups, summer camps

Angel and Butterflies  Exit disclaimer– conductive education

Friends in Sport Fishing  Exit disclaimer– free fishing and boating experiences for you, seniors and people with special needs

Portia Learning Centre  Exit disclaimer– services for individuals with autism, developmental delays and disorders




 Para Transpo  Exit disclaimer

Stock Transportation Exit disclaimer– service for students going to school

Ottawa Student Transportation Authority  Exit disclaimer

Eastern Ontario Resource Centre Community Support Program  Exit disclaimer– transportation to essential services. Priority given to transportation to medical appointments

Champlain Health Line  Exit disclaimer– a site that provides a list of transportation services




Darlene Donnelly


613-761-9522 ext. 236

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