Our organization provides clinical programs & services to vulnerable children under 18, and their stressed families, who have a variety of special needs, but mainly Autism. The COVID pandemic phenomenon has required our organization to immediately pivot from providing these services from an “in home” model to exclusively an “online” model. We do not have all the necessary technology software, hardware or supplies, nor critical staff training to effectively make this tectonic shift.
Why…here is an example. Dale is a nonverbal 7-year old with ASD, and he’s been learning to skate. One of his challenges is putting on a helmet – usually he needs his mom to hold his hands while someone else quickly puts it on his head. Even with two people it’s never an easy task. On Monday at his home, Dale was given compressions on his hands and head by a therapist and an aid. To everyone’s surprise, he put on his helmet all by himself. It might seem like a small accomplishment to some, but it was a giant leap towards Dale developing his own independence.
In 1979 several parents of children with cerebral palsy had a need for hands-on expertise with a compassionate approach. They banded together to create a specialized program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and started providing expertise, information, and clinical services to families who had children with severe special needs. From this rich beginning, the organization grew.
We’re now known as Ability4Good, a non-profit that provides critical programs and services for persons with special-needs diagnoses from childhood to adults. We’re proud to be one of the earliest social enterprises in Canada, which means that we’re a financially self-sustaining organization that invests in our community.
We’re able to adapt and respond to the changing needs present in the community we serve. While we provide a wide range of services and infrastructure, our core mission is to combine our empathetic sense of care with technical capability to help families adapt and grow with the challenges they face.
Our programs and services help over 300 children (aged 2-17) and their families every month. While the majority of children we support are diagnosed with Autism, we also specialize in Global Developmental Delay, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome and other diagnoses.
Many of the families we support struggle with poverty, single parenthood, and isolation. In fact, 60% of our clients are immigrants (more than double Calgary’s average). To help children progress and grow, we take a holistic approach that considers not just their needs, but the larger context and strengths of their home life.
For the Child
Some of the children we work with are unable to speak, bathe, eat, or sleep properly. Our Specialized and Developmental Aide Services help children develop specific skills and strategies to address behavioural or developmental issues. On a deeper level, our goal is to help them become independent adults who can pursue their own life goals. We want the special children we serve to have careers, relationships, and be a valuable part of their community. That is why we also offer group recreation programming for children to have fun, connecting with peers while learning how to cook, hanging out in the pool, or even creating fun science projects.
For the Parent
Our programs are parent-focused. We empower them with knowledge and techniques to leverage and sustain the clinical progress in the comfort of their home. The impact of our services makes for a happier, healthier family and gives parents the tools they need to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their children.
We also recognize the importance of giving parents the opportunity to recharge. That’s why we offer a respite service, which is short-term care for children. There’s large demand for these programs in Calgary, and we’re one of the largest organizations with high-quality, supervised and structured day programs for the children that are involved.
It starts at the very top: all our programs are managed by a Clinical Director and involve Occupational Therapists, Behaviour Consultants, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Child Development Facilitators and others. Ability4Good has four main service streams:
A family-centered, play-based, multidisciplinary approach designed for children with severe disabilities. We integrate consultations by a whole team of professionals with family coaching. This support promotes specific skills and learning strategies to help a family promote their child’s participation in daily life activities.
Play-based program designed for children and youth with mild or moderate disabilities to help them create the skills, competencies, and confidence for being a part of a community. This service consists of one-on-one support and/or group sessions based on the needs and strengths of the child and their family to help children be as productive and independent as possible as they transition into adulthood.
Thrive & Strive
Strive is a group respite program where a child participates in recreational and social activities with peers in a safe group environment. This enables parents to take time for themselves and pursue their own goals. Thrive is a Community Aide program that helps children to participate in goal-oriented, recreational, and social activities with other kids and youth.
Our Positive Parenting Program is a parent skill development service for those with a child that has behavioural or emotional disorders. Parents gain the knowledge, skills, and experience to help guide their child and manage (or avoid) potentially difficult situations. As parents become equipped to teach new skills to their child, their family can grow and form stronger, positive relationships with each other.
Other On-Site Services
We’re proud of our facilities in Calgary, which we open to members of the public for a small fee (or even free!). This gives access to our sensory room, which helps children and adults explore their senses and promote relaxation through lighting, soothing sounds, and friendly materials. Our Physical Literacy Room is a space for families to play and have fun with their child by climbing, running, jumping, playing with balls. Most might just see a ball pit, slide, and climbing walls, but we think of it as the best library for promoting ‘physical literacy’.
We also offer Computability services for adults with special needs to build their computer skills. This program is assisted by a volunteer tutor and covers the basics of Microsoft Office, web design, programming, and using the internet.
We’re always glad to have a helping hand! Currently we’re looking for Play Facilitators (to work weeknights from 6-8 pm with children with special needs), Play Organizers (to help us organize our toys and playroom), and Computer Tutors (for 2 hours on weekdays in the Computability lab).
There are several areas where we’d appreciate financial assistance to better meet client needs: