Child Development Institute

Child Development Institute (CDI), an accredited children’s mental health agency in Toronto, is a groundbreaker in developing innovative programming. We offer evidence-based programs for children ages 0-12, youth ages 13-18, and their families.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Learning disabilities are the most common form of disability experienced by Canadian children. Children and youth with learning disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience significant mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Located in Toronto, Child Development Institute is the only accredited children’s mental health agency in Canada that specializes in the treatment of children, youth and their families who are dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities (LDMH).

Learning happens everywhere – at home, with friends, in extracurricular activities, etc., and as a result, LDMH can affect youth and their families in many aspects of their lives. Child Development Institute provides evidence-based programs for children, youth and their families. Built on a legacy of serving children and families for more than 100 years, we have an established track record of success in developing and delivering evidence-informed programs. 

Our Story What We Do

As an accredited children’s mental health organization, our mission is to promote and support the healthy development of children and youth and to strengthen the families and communities in which they live.

Child Development Institute’s programs and services address a wide range of needs, including LDMH, school problems, substance use and family disruption, child abuse and family violence, early childhood disorders, parenting, aggression and children in conflict with the law.

Child Development Institute provides service to more than 4,000 children, youth and their families on an annual basis.

Our Programs How We Do It

Child Development Institute is committed to helping children reach their full potential by supporting and strengthening families. With a family-focused approach, our services are designed to meet the unique strengths, needs and challenges of each child and family.

Child Development Institute provides programs for supporting children and youth dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities, in addition to delivering healthy child development, early intervention and family violence services.

We also help children through our research and our scientist-practitioner approach. Through exploration, innovation, evaluation and knowledge-sharing, we gain a better understanding of what children and families need, and what makes a positive difference in their lives. Our research is shared locally, nationally and internationally through training, consultation, research and program partnerships.

Child Development Institute offers a range of programs and services to meet the needs of children, youth and families, such as:

• Specialized mental health services for children and youth ages 8-18 with learning disabilities, including Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts, Integra Young Warriors, and the Towhee Summer Program

• SNAP® (Stop Now and Plan) programs for children under 12 with serious behavioural problems, including Camp Wimodausis, a summer day camp

• Programs for children and mothers who have experienced violence and sexual abuse

• Five licenced, not-for-profit early learning (child care) centres

• Parkdale-High Park Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centre

• Individual, family and group counselling

• Parental support and education

• Specialized classrooms and other school-based services

• Consultation and support for child care centres working with children with special needs 

The Integra Program

The Integra Foundation has delivered innovative, evidence-informed, therapeutic programs and services to children, youth, and their families who are dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities (LDMH) since 1967.

In October 2014, Child Development Institute and the Integra Foundation amalgamated, bringing together two like-minded, accredited children’s mental health agencies serving children, youth, and families in Toronto. Child Development Institute now delivers the programs developed by the Integra Foundation.

The Integra Program provides the following family-centred, evidence-informed, direct clinical services to children and youth ages 8-18:

• Psychology consultation to understand the child’s learning profile

• LDMH Informed Individual, parenting and family therapy or counselling

• Triple P Positive Parenting Group Program

• Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts (MMA)

• Integra Young Warriors

• Integra Social Competence Group Program

• Towhee Summer Program

In addition to providing clinical services, the Integra Program also provides Community Education and Engagement (CEE) services. The Integra Program offers interactive workshops and training for parents, caregivers, educators, and other professionals who interact with children and youth with learning disabilities and mental health challenges.

Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts (MMA)

Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts (MMA) is an innovative 20-week long program for youth ages 12-18, which combines martial arts training with yoga, mindfulness meditation and therapy (specifically cognitive behavioural therapy). Classes are led by instructors with both martial arts expertise and Master’s degree-level mental health intervention training. This combination of expertise allows us to meet the needs of reluctant, vulnerable, hard-to-serve youth who struggle with LDMH.

Developed in 2002 with a class of five, Integra MMA has now expanded to serve more than 200 youth in Toronto. Additionally, a school-based version has been implemented in Haliburton, Ontario. This implementation has been recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Education for course credit.

A developmentally-appropriate version, Integra Young Warriors (YW), is available for children ages 9-11.  

Integra MMA Impact

Integra MMA has partnered with academic institutions to evaluate program outcomes for more than a decade. Integra MMA research findings demonstrate that the program improves focus and self-regulation, decreases anxiety, promotes healthy thinking and results in brain-based changes. Integra YW research findings show the program increases self-soothing and regulation skills and decreases levels of anger and frustration.  

Integra MMA/Integra YW Expansion

The Integra MMA and Integra YW programs have gained considerable traction over the last year. The Trillium Lakelands District School Board approved funding for the expansion of Integra YW into five elementary schools. Additionally, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board has supported the continued implementation of Integra MMA in Haliburton high schools. The schools are working with regional children’s mental health agencies to deliver the program. Child Development Institute is also partnering with the Hospital for Sick Children on a Medical Psychiatry Alliance project to deliver Integra MMA for youth with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Child Development Institute plans to develop an Integra Peaceful Warriors program in partnership with youth from our Youth Engagement Program to better support youth who have experienced trauma and are seeking a non-combative program that offers the same fitness, mental health and social-emotional benefits as Integra MMA/Integra YW.

Participant Success Story

“Jordan” was a participant diagnosed with Aspergers and a learning disability, which made him incredibly sensitive to sensory stimuli. Noises, heat, and even the tags in his clothes would cause distress and meltdowns. Kids at school noticed his behaviour and would provoke Jordan, delighting in his outbursts. He enrolled in Integra MMA hoping to learn some tools to cope with his extreme sensitivity.

In the yoga component of Integra MMA, Jordan learned to breathe in a way that incorporates attention to, and softening of one’s muscles. While holding the strenuous yoga poses, Jordan practiced breathing into muscles that felt fatigued and uncomfortable. He was coached to use the breath to accept and observe discomfort in order to learn to discern between sharp pain that signals injury and general discomfort which makes one stronger.

Jordan took to this practice and was proud of his new strength and flexibility. Jordan’s Integra MMA instructor/therapist helped him make a connection between using his breath to persist in a yoga pose and using that same breath to stay aware and present in the midst of other discomforts, including sensory distress. His reactivity and outbursts decreased dramatically through the emotion regulation skills he developed.

What You Can Do

Your investment will support the development of Integra Peaceful Warriors and the growth of Integra MMA and Integra YW.

With your help, we can continue to deliver innovative, evidence-informed therapeutic programs and services for children and youth with learning disabilities and mental health challenges.

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Shauna Klein
Director Fund Development, Marketing & Communications
416.603.1827 x2291
Charitable Number: 886252105RR0001

Finance & Governance


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