First Words Program

First Words provides free services for families with children from birth to eligibility to Senior Kindergarten. The program partners with community workers, Early Childhood Educators and clinicians.

If you have questions about your child's speech and language milestones,


Direct referrals to First Words Intake at CHEO

Families are encouraged to complete the Communication Checkup e-screening tool. By completing the tool, you can be sure that your child will be supported by the agency that best suits their needs. You can also choose to provide a copy of your child’s results to the agency to inform their assessment. You can make a self-referral to First Words Intake Office at CHEO if:
    • You do not wish to complete the Communication Checkup and you suspect a speech and language delay
    • You suspect a speech and language delay and/or your child is not meeting the communication milestones.
Call 613-737-7600, ext. 2500 to request an Intake Package.  

Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre (OCTC)

First Words works closely with various partners in our community.  OCTC supports children with more complex needs.  If you have concerns about speech and language development AND your child's overall development (i.e. play, socializing, motor skills):
    • Complete the Communication Checkup online screening tool.  Based on your answers, the tool will direct you to the best agency to support your child's development.
    • Call OCTC directly at 613-737-0871 x4425 to refer your child. Children from birth to senior kindergarten-entry are eligible.

Clinical Speech Language Pathology services

The First Words service delivery model includes these steps:
          1. Parents access our Communication Checkup e-screening tool  for their child or can self-refer to the First Words Intake Office located at CHEO.
          2. Parents must complete and return the First Words Intake package.
          3. Child will be assessed by a Speech Language Pathologist.
          4. Child and family access treatment and intervention.
          5. The Speech Language Pathologist will support the family with transition to school.

Community Outreach and Health Promotion

Public awareness, prevention and education activities are offered to parents, the community and health professionals in Ottawa. Check out strategies and resources.

Special Needs Strategy

On behalf of the Ontario Special Needs Strategy Ottawa Planning Table, here is an update on the activities and progress we have made since our last communiqué January 2016. Please click here for more details: Update April 2016