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Montreal Families

Fun activities for kids with special needs

Families who have children with special needs face many challenges, from trying to obtain a timely and accurate diagnosis to seeking out various treatments. But at the end of the day, these kids are just like other children — they want to swim, play soccer, ski and take part in other extracurricular programs. It can be difficult to find programs that will accommodate a special needs child but the rewards — improved social skills, teamwork, and increased self-esteem — are important. Below is a list of some activities available these children.

The Malcolm-Knox Aquatic Centre in Pointe Claire offers a variety of swimming programs throughout the year. Group lessons or one-on-one instruction are available. The winter session runs for 10 weeks starting in January. Call the program supervisors to ensure your child is enrolled in the appropriate program. Registration for Pointe Claire residents takes place at the Aquatic Centre on December 9, and non-residents can register on December 10. For more information, call (514) 630-1202 or go to www.ville.pointe-claire.qc.ca and look under “Children’s Adaptive Programs.”

A program called Making Waves offers one-on-one swimming lessons with qualified instructors at the CÉGEP du Vieux Montréal’s pool. The program is available to children between the ages of 5 and 18. The cost for the sessions is minimal as the instructors work on a volunteer basis. Registration for the winter session continues until January 15. For more information, call (514) 652-6732 or go to www.makingwavesmontreal.com.

The Eastern Township’s Disabled Skiers Foundation runs a downhill ski program for those with physical disabilities. In 2009, it will take place at Owl’s Head on Saturdays beginning January 10. The foundation provides a variety of adapted equipment to suit each skier’s individual needs. For more information, call (450) 243-5985 or go to www.fshe.org.

The Special Olympics Ski Club of Owl’s Head offers an eight-week program for children with intellectual disabilities starting January 11. The program takes place Sunday afternoons for two hours. The first hour consists of training by qualified instructors and the second is devoted to racing. In addition, there are three competitions organized by Special Olympics Quebec every year. A volunteer is required to accompany beginner athletes. For more information, call (450) 292-0800 or go to www.ohd.ca and click on “communities.”

There are many opportunities for children with physical challenges to ski in the Montreal area. Thanks to a foundation started by former Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Lise Thibault, several ski centres across Quebec have specialized equipment (called Tandemskis and Dualskis) that can be used by people with disabilities. Mont Rigaud, which is west of Montreal, and Mont Habitant in the Laurentians are just two examples. Both offer private lessons with certified instructors. For more information about Mont Rigaud, call (514) 990-1286 or go to www.skimontrigaud.com. For more information about Mont Habitant, call (866) 887-2637 or go to www.monthabitant.com. For a complete listing of ski centres that offer adapted skiing, call (514) 425-8894 or check out the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing at www.disabledskiing.ca.

The Lakeshore Soccer Club runs the Super Sonic Soccer Kids program for children 5 and up. It offers children the opportunity to play soccer indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer in a non-competitive atmosphere. The winter program runs from early January to the end of April and takes place at John Abbott College. For more information, call (514) 697-6973 or email info@lakeshoresoccer.ca.

The Dynamic Theatre Factory offers a program for children with attention, social, and behavioural challenges called the Better Esteem program. The Ville-Émard-based course for children 8 to 11 years old is designed to help children develop their self-esteem by providing a creative outlet for self-expression and acquiring teamwork skills. Classes run once a week for two hours from November to February. Another session is in the works for 2009. For more information, call (514) 591-6994 or go to www.dtfonline.com.

The Children’s Theatre in the Snowdon-N.D.G. area is starting a new program for children with autism called Starlight Players. The initial 12-week session starts in January and organizers plan to offer another one next fall. It’s an introduction to acting that teaches voice work, body awareness, teamwork, recognition of social cues, and provides a means for self-expression. For more information, call (514) 484-6620 or go to www.childrens-theatre.ca.

Horseback Riding
The Lucky Harvest Therapeutic Centre offers one-on-one horseback riding to those who have physical, intellectual, emotional and developmental disabilities. The aim is to help individuals overcome limitations, improve their self-esteem and gain a sense of accomplishment. The centre is located in Herdman, Quebec, a small rural community southwest of Montreal. For more information, call (450) 264-0282.

North of Montreal in Ste. Anne des Plaines, the Fondation Étoile Bleue offers individual and group horseback riding lessons. Instructors are trained in equestrian therapy and there are ergotherapists, physiotherapists, and pediatric psychiatrists affiliated with the program. The stables are open year-round and lessons are available every day. For more information, contact Coralie Robin at (514) 707-0221.

Équitation Elysée in St. Lazare offers one-on-one lessons for children with Attention Deficit Disorder, Aspergers syndrome, and learning disabilities. Day camps and clinics are available in the summer. For more information, call (514) 941-2959.

Other courses
Special Olympics Quebec offers training in a variety of summer and winter sports such as swimming, soccer, softball, skating, and others in regions across the province. For more information, call (514) 843-8778 or go to www.josq.qc.ca.

The Eastern Townships Disabled Skiers Foundation offers summer sports and recreation programs at Lake Massawippi, with lessons in waterskiing, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and sailing. For more information, call (450) 243-5985 or go to www.fshe.org.

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