Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth urges Ontarians to support young people with special needs

TORONTO, Dec. 2, 2016 /CNW/ - On the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is calling on Ontarians to change the way they view children and youth with "disabilities." 

"I have heard loud and clear that children and youth want to be seen as more than their disability," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "I remember one young girl telling me that she was not a 'walking label.' I agree with young people in their belief that we need a paradigm shift in our schools, workplaces, health care system and our province where young people with disabilities are visible and afforded the same expectations and opportunities to realize their dreams as any other child."

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is recognized worldwide on December 3 to promote the rights of individuals with disabilities.

An estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18, or one in nine children, have a disability in Ontario. 

On May 10, 2016, more than 250 young people with "special needs,1" their families and caregivers mobilized in Toronto to share their lived experiences and ideas for change to a group of decision-makers as part of the We Have Something to Say project. Their stories and recommendations were captured in a report prepared by the Advocate's Office entitled, We Have Something to Say: Young People and their Families Speak out about Special Needs and Change. The recommendations in that report focused on family and home; school and education; supports and services; and transitions across the lifespan. 

Since the forum, members of the We Have Something to Say Youth Advisory Committee and the Advocate's Office have met with the Minister Responsible for Accessibility Tracy MacCharles; Secretary of Cabinet Steve Orsini; and various other government and ministry officials.

The Advocate's Office is pleased that the young people have received a positive response in their request to develop a process with government to move their report recommendations forward.

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).

The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.



1 The term "special needs" is difficult to define and can represent single or multiple needs faced by a person. In the "We Have Something to Say" report, the Youth Advisory Committee chose to use this term for the purposes of this report based on the view that it covers an array of challenges related to their physical, communication, intellectual, emotional, social and/or behaviourial development.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Akihiko Tse, Communications, Media Relations Coordinator, (416)-325-5994,, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth


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