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We know young people want to be seen as individuals with dreams, ideas and talents – not as persons whose identity is tied to their disability or medical condition

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth launched We Have Something to Say in an effort to close the gap between policy and the realities facing children and youth with special needs and their families or caregivers. We amplify the voices of these youth to those who are in a position to provide them with services.

The current systems of care are failing to support young people with special needs. Until young people are included in policy-making and the planning of programs and services, they will continue to feel “left out of their own lives” and be denied full social inclusion.

We aim to place the voices of children and youth with special needs at the centre of any discussion to ensure their rights are respected. Young people want government and service providers to recognize them as experts in their own lives. They want the same opportunities to learn, socialize and realize their dreams as their non-disabled peers.

Connect with us and find out more about how you can get involved.

About We Have Something To Say

On December 2, 2013, to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Advocate’s Office launched the I Have Something to Say (IHSTS) initiative to elevate the voice of children and youth with special needs across the province of Ontario. IHSTS encourages youth special needs to participate in a discussion based on the unique barriers they face as they try to find or access services across many systems of care.

To gather their voices, the Advocate’s Office conducted one-to-one interviews with youth, and created various outreach spaces where young people, their families and caregivers could submit written work, art, songs, and videos. IHSTS heard about changes to the current systems of government programs and services that could better the lives of children and youth living with special needs in the future. To date, the Office has received submissions from hundreds of youth representing a cross-section of many various disabilities.

Over time, the voices represented in the submissions shaped the We Have Something to Say movement.

On May 10, 2016, this movement – the first of its kind in Ontario – brought together young people to engage in a “listening circle.” The purpose of this listening circle was to create a safe space for young people and adults to share their stories, engage in a dialogue with those who deliver services and set policy, and bring their voices directly into conversation with government, decision-makers and service providers.

On the same day, the Advocate’s Office released the report, We Have Something to Say: Young people and their families speak out about special needs and change.

Young people want to know that decision-makers are listening to them, and to ensure they understand that the often confusing and fragmented systems of care can be better organized to reduce the amount of financial, emotional and physical burdens many families of children with special needs bear.

Do you want to get involved or learn more about the project?  Contact us

Are you interested in our workshops?  Contact us

A Word About Language

Sometimes we’re asked why we use the term “special needs”.

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth was established by the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.  Our legislation does not define the term special needs, so we are required to use the definition in the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA).

The CFSA (1990) defines a special need as: A need that is related to or caused by a developmental disability or a behavioral, emotional, physical, mental or other disability.