Free/Cheap Stuff

Some early reading sites of interest to parents


Starfall is a free public service site designed to motivate children to read with phonics.  The site is kept up-to-date and there are a huge variety of free activities for children to use on their home computer. features animated free reading and writing and learning for kids. Children can even have their own stories published.  The quality is high and the stories are engaging.

The Reading Rockets project is comprised of PBS television programs and online services offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read and why so many struggle. There are lots of ideas and resources for parents here aimed at early and emerging readers.

Learning Disabilities Online is a good place to start learning about Learning Disabilities and ADHD.  It is an American site so some strategies are not applicable in Canada but the site has a huge resource list of links to organizations, free on-line resources and supports.

do2Learn has a wide variety of free resources supporting students with special needs including instruction on bus safety and facial expressions, picture cards, schedulers and print activities.  The site is well-maintained and easy to use.

Learning Tools 4 All contains many free digital text-to-speech tools in one place and supports to help you choose the best one for you and your child.  The site is on a Wiki model and may be a bit hard to use for some people.

Make a Family Tradition!


Create Memories, not anxieties!

Back-to-school is an anxious time for children AND parents. Try to make the whole experience something to remember with fondness by making up your own family tradition for the first day of school.

Many families take a yearly photograph on the first day of school.  From year to year you can compare how big they have grown!  And not just their backpacks!

Some families have a special event when the kids get home.  Go out for lunch or have a B-B-Q.  Take the time to find out who is in your child’s class this year and "Oh, my goodness, you have which teacher?  Yikes, didn’t your father have her for grade 3? She must be ready for retirement by now!"  

Make a Back-to-School advent calendar of activities.  Do something special every day for the week prior to back-to-school.  This might include re-jigging sleep schedules.  My kids always stay up later and get up later as summer goes by.  If it is part of their special back-to-school activities they might forgive you for the early bedtimes.

Some parents write a letter or a note on the first day of school, which their child can read during a free moment at school. Your letter might offer encouragement or point out specific things your child did that made you proud.

Use a Family Calendar


*updated 2012*

As a parent of a child with exceptional needs you are constantly juggling many balls at once. There are school meetings, your other children’s schedules, your work and home-life commitments and if you are lucky, a social life. Use a family calendar to get and stay organized.
1. Keep One Master Family Calendar
You’ll need one large family calendar where you can keep everyone’s schedule. Look for something that gives you a lot of space for writing appointments and details, and place the calendar in an area where you will see it regularly. Many calendars are based on an academic year, September to September, so this is the perfect time to get your new and improved calendar.  I keep my calendar on the counter right by my phone and I check it daily to be sure there’s not an upcoming event that I’ve forgotten.

2. Use a personal planner
Choose something that’s small enough to carry with you, but not so small that it’s a chore to read your own writing. Alternatively, you could use a smart phone or another  portable electronic organizer for this purpose.

3. Regularly Add Important Dates to Each Calendar
As soon as you receive the annual school calendar, add the pro-D days to your family calendar and your personal day planner. Don’t forget to add all those special days like birthdays and event invitations. Getting into the habit of adding items to your calendars regularly will help you gain control of your life.

4. Use Your Day Planner to Maintain Details
Your day planner is a perfect place to record directions, addresses, and phone numbers. Any detail you might need later can be kept in your day planner. For example, when you’re adding the date for your IEP review, you can include the location and a contact phone number in your day planner so you are prepared even if you lose the note from school.  Alternatively, buy a family calendar with large enough spaces to include these details.  Just do whatever works best for you!

5. Use Pencil
This is a simple recommendation, but it allows you to easily make changes to your calendar. The ability to keep it current and readable increases the chance that you’ll really use your family calendar regularly to keep your life’s activities organized.  I also have a pot of white-out nearby in case of a big boo-boo.

6. Check Your Calendar Daily
Get into the habit of checking your calendar regularly. For example, plan to check it every evening so you can plan your day.

7. Teach the Kids to Check the Family Calendar
As your children get older, you’ll want them to be in the habit of checking the family calendar, too. This will help prevent scheduling conflicts and help the entire family participate in the task of planning your schedules.  This is not just Mom’s job!

8. If You Can’t Find a Calendar That Works for You, Print Your Own
In addition to saving money, you can add important details to the template before the calendar is printed, such as monthly home projects, holidays, and birthdays. These actually make great family gifts, as well.

I have found DotXls good for free and simple excel templates:

or free craft calendars:

Office also has lots of free templates:

Or just Google "free calendar template" and pick and choose!


Custom made Gardening Tool


If you would like something custom made to suit your needs, contact the TETRA SOCIETY at  It is one of the Disability Foundation organizations that have retired engineers who will make or modify anything for you.  Our daughter Cydney just had a custom made gardening tool made for her so that she could use it to plant or weed her raised garden bed full of vegetables.  All you have to pay for is the materials they use.  


Hints and tips site for Disneyland travellers Great deals on all things Disney!

Check out this hot hints and tips website for all things Disney.  The site owners have links to travel agents and travel sites, but the information is FREE.  The site is updated regularly and might be the place to start planning your trip to the Magic Kingdom.  This site and its links could easily take the place of that expensive Disney guidebook you were thinking of purchasing! 

This site is updated regularly (June 2012)

Travelling by bus in BC and Canada?


Pacific Coach Lines (travel between Victoria, Vancouver and Whistler) has a limited number of wheelchair lift equipped coaches in its fleet. For passengers who require service with the wheelchair lift equipped coach reservations must be made AT LEAST 48 hours in advance of the trip to guarantee accessible service. For Health and Safety reasons motorized scooters cannot be loaded, unloaded or securely fastened within the baggage bays.

For passengers who use mobility aids but are able to board the coach with some assistance and store their mobility aid under the coach, phone Pacific Coach Lines at least 24 hours before departure to request assistance and be at the depot no less than 30 minutes prior to departure for boarding.

For more detailed information on these services, please contact customer service:

1-800-661-1725 (toll free) or 604-662-7575


GREYHOUND BUS LINES  (travel across BC, Canada and the US) allows some people with disabilities and their attendant to ride together for the price of one ticket. This applies only on regular fares, not specials. Most depots have accessible washroom facilities and attendants to assist people in wheelchairs.
Check Greyhound’s web site for current policy as each type of disability (hearing, mobility etc) have diffent eligibility requirements and accomodations.

Greyhound suggests you call their information line to check on the current rules.
Fare and schedule information in Canada
1-800-661-TRIP (8747)

1-800-397-7870 5:00 a.m. – Midnight

Get the BC Ferries disability discount


If you are a resident of British Columbia and have a permanent disability, reduced fares are available (this applies to passenger fares only).  
To receive them, you must present your BC Ferries Disabled Status Identification (DSI) card.  
Please call BC Ferries for details or you can download the Information for Passengers with Special Needs Brochure (application included).

Passengers requiring the use of an "overheight" vehicle equipped with a mechanical wheelchair lift or ramp may travel for the same cost as an "underheight" vehicle (or car) with or without a DSI card. Please inform the ticket agent of your vehicle’s special status.

An escort (one only) traveling with a person with a disability is eligible for the disabled rate.  The escort must be traveling in the same vehicle as the person with a disability.  Escorts accompanying seniors with a disability traveling on a senior’s free day must pay full fare.

Gasoline tax rebates, how to get them!


Provincial Gasoline Tax Rebate for Persons with Disabilities

People with certain disabilities may apply for a refund of tax paid on fuel purchased for their motor vehicles. The refund is based on the amount of taxes paid, to a maximum of $500 annually.

You must meet all of the following criteria to qualify for the program:
– you must be a "person with disabilities" as defined in the Motor Fuel Tax Act
– you must be at least 16 years old
– you must be a registered owner or lessee of a motor vehicle, or provide a letter from the registered owner indicating you are a joint owner of the vehicle

Qualified persons must first register before claiming a refund. Please see Register for the Fuel Tax Refund Program for Persons with Disabilities.


Applications and supporting documentation should be sent to:

Consumer Taxation


Fax: 250-356-219


Federal Excise Gasoline Tax Refund Program

If you are medically certified as having a permanent mobility impairment, and you cannot safely use public transportation, you can apply for a refund of part of the federal excise tax on the gasoline you buy.

For more information and an application form, see Information Sheet XE8, Federal Excise Gasoline Tax Refund Program.

Disabled parking permits in BC, where to get them!


Enforceable, plastic placards with permit number and international symbol of access are distributed to people with disabilities, and agencies transporting people with disabilities, so that they may park in designated spaces. Individuals must complete an application form and have it signed by a doctor.

The permits are available from SPARC BC, and are available for download HERE

Mailing address:


4445 Norfolk St, Burnaby, BC  V5G 0A7

Fax: 604-736-8697



If you are travelling to BC from out of province or out of the country and you want to use your home parking permit or need a temporary permit, find all the information HERE.

Legal information made easy!


Check out this new website, Clicklaw, for all British Columbians.  You can access guides, information sheets and a legal advocate directory.  There is a special topic area for disability that can help you understand your rights to medical care, disability benfits and income assitance. 

There are tons of resources here, for example, in the learn and teach section you can find a link to a video for children to help them understand divorce.