Many public attractions offer special deals for disabled children. In most cases you just have to ask. Most swimming pools, science world, zoos, the aquarium, Playland and countless others allow for an escort (i.e. a parent) to accompany the child free of charge. My child doesn’t look disabled, but I have never had anyone refuse my request. If you were worried about being turned down, perhaps you might consider carrying a letter of explanation from your family doctor.

Another perk offered at Playland is an exit pass. Autistic children often have trouble waiting in line-ups, so if you go to customer service and explain the issue, they will give the child an exit pass. This allows the child and one escort to bypass the line-up for any attraction and enter through the exit and become first in line. This is an excellent service and I commend Playland for being so thoughtful.

Adapted lessons are another service offered by some parks and recreation departments. These are one on one lessons (for example swimming and skating lessons) designed for disabled children. Generally the instructor works for the parks and recreation department. An aide from your home team is not normally an option.

A support person may accompany someone with disabilities to the movies through the Access to Entertainment program. The Access 2 Entertainment card provides free admission (or a significant discount) for support persons at member movie theatres across Canada. The person with the disability pays regular admission.

Therapeutic Riding

There are some outstanding therapeutic riding associations in the province. The Pacific Riding Association for Developing Abilities (PRDA) is the only one that I have personal experience with and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They have a superb facility and the staff is truly outstanding. Your local child development centre may have more information available about programs in your area. I would recommend that you visit the facility before your child and assess it for safety and organization. A bad experience for your child is in nobody’s best interest. Check out the following listings.

Learn to Snow Ski

Ski hills throughout the province have programs to teach all levels of skiing to disabled kids, including those with autism. The lessons can even be covered the BC autism funding program.


Kidsport is a community-based sport funding program that provides grants for children aged 6 – 18 to participate in a sport season of their choice. Grants of up to $200 (depending on the community) are to be used for the payment of sport participation / registration fees.

Special Olympics

ASD kids may qualify to participate in the Special Olympics.  It costs $15 annual fee, plus a nominal fee ($10-$50) for each sport.  Contact your local co-coordinator to apply.  It’s more geared to people who have Downs Syndrome, but anyone with an intellectual disability is welcome.  Get some sports time with instructors who are more concerned about your child enjoying themselves than scoring goals, get practice in social skills, make friends and have fun. What’s not to like??

Camp for free in BC

If your child is registered for the “At Home Program”, then the entire camping party may camp for free. Visit BC Parks for more information.

Kids Bowl Free

This is not a disability specific program but you can register your child to bowl for free all summer long. Each registered child can bowl twice a day all summer long!  A Family Pass can be purchased for $24.95 to enable parents or others to participate (up to 4 adults).

Visit Kids Bowl Free for more information.

Leisure Access Programs

Most municipalities in BC have a Leisure Access Program (LAP or sometimes LEAP) to allow residents in financial need to access local programs at a reduced cost. Consult your local recreation department for more information.

Jumpstart (sponsored by Canadian Tire)

This program provides assistance to access sports and recreation. It is not ASD or disability specific but rather driven by financial considerations. In their words:

We get kids in the game by covering the costs of equipment, registration and/or transportation. We also lend support to unique initiatives aimed at increasing access to sport and recreation programs.

Here is one testimonial from their website which gives an example of what they do:

I am 11 years old and have autism. I take a lot of medication which makes me gain a lot of weight. Because of my weight I can’t play with the other kids. Jumpstart donated a beautiful stationary bike. My mom and my social worker made a (special) board for me with the map of Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine which I put in front of my bike. Everyday my mom asks me where I would like to go today – sometimes I go to the ice cream parlour, sometimes I go to the beach or to the park – then I jump on my bike and I pedal to my destination. So far I lost 10 pounds, I love riding my bike and I know one day I will be able to play outside with my friends or to go to the park on my own on a real bike. Thank you Jumpstart.

Visit Canadian Tire Jumpstart for more information and application procedures.

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