Four-year-old Elijah Santos takes lessons on his ipad offered by PaceKids.

Pacekids offers a range of programs and services for children with special needs and their families, which are intended to promote childrens' healthy development, maximize quality of life, assist families in their role as primary caregivers and support full participation in community life.

“A big goal that we have here at Pacekids is to help a child transition into the public school system after they’re with us,” said Kirsten Colberg, managing director of early childhood services programs.

“If they’re missing out on this programming then maybe that won’t happen.”

While the majority of kids are taking part in-person, 15 per cent of families are keeping their kids home and taking advantage of online learning programs.

Founded in 1994, Pacekids holds a Private ECS Operator License from Alberta Education and offers a variety of programs through funding from Family Support for Children with Disabilities.

It currently provides services to over 600 children from infancy through school age each year.

Four-year-old Elijah Santos was diagnosed with a severe speech delay. His mother, Rhoda Santos, wants to make sure he’s ready for kindergarten.

But Elijah and his six-year-old brother Josiah both have to stay at home because they have a three-month-old brother who was born premature.

Their mother doesn’t want to risk the health of her newborn.

And because Pacekids has an online component, Elijah isn’t missing out. 

“They have this zoom meeting that happens Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Rhoda. “They also have this one-on-one Tuesday and every other Thursday they have music so it’s a lot of fun for my child.”

The virtual learning is also helping Elijah with his speech.

“He talks a lot more and even when he’s by himself when he’s playing he talks by himself,” said Rhoda. “And he’s using five to six words in a sentence which is great.”

Colberg says many students at Pacekids suffered in March when classes were cancelled because of the pandemic. She knows these are formative years for all youngsters but especially those with special needs so to get support now is really important.

“I think we are celebrating what’s happening so far this school year,” she said. “Things have gone off actually quite well with both our on-site and virtual options and I think that our message to share with families is that even if on-site is seeming a little daunting for your family right now, there are other options out there.”

Learn more about Pacekids online.