This week we have a guest writer, Ashley Taylor from DisabledParents.org. She is an incredible resource for families navigating parenthood while living with a disability or chronic condition. She had this to say about preparing for a baby and caring creating a safe and nurturing home:
Raising a kid is hard enough, even for people with stable finances and a family network to help with childcare. But raising a child as a parent with a disability – whether that means a cognitive impairment, being wheelchair-bound, or living with chronic pain – can prove nearly impossible at times. Yet by some estimates, between 4.1 million and 9 million parents with disabilities in the US do it every day. If you have a disability and you’re expecting a child, here are some tips to prepare your life and home for parenthood.
Numerous “associations, councils, centers, and societies” across the country provide resources for parents or families with disabilities. (This is in addition to blogs, conferences, teaching tips, children’s books, and financial aid opportunities.) These include the Family Resource Center on Disabilities, the National Learning Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Association of Parents with Children in Special Education (NAPCSE). Still other databases list child care services, health tips for parents, mental health counseling, transportation for families, and money management tips. Drawing on these advocacy programs may take time, but they’re here for you.
Reaching Out to Friends & Family
Who else is here for you? Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, nannies, or anyone else in your support network. Consider joining a church or a disabilities center to widen your personal community. Ideally, you should have a bevy of people you feel comfortable asking for assistance; this might include babysitters you trust to watch your kids as well as your parents, siblings, or other family members who could stay with you through a night. Fellow worshippers from your church, mosque or synagogue may be willing to bring meals over for you when you’re busy.
Remaking Your House
As a new parent, and as someone with a disability, where you live is important, so look around. You’ll need easy access to your child and your child’s nursery, especially since you may already have to deal with your own restricted ambulation. If you’re in a wheelchair, for example, you may want to replace some of your steps – either outside or in – with a ramp. Another spatial adjustment to consider is buying hinges for doorways and installing skid-resistant flooring to prevent slips. Porcelain tiling is dense and solid, and provides good slip-resistance, or you could just put down mats and carpets. They may not always be aesthetically pleasing, but they will lower the chance of anyone in your home taking a spill.
Granted, some of the remodeling tips above are doable only for people who either have a house or disposable income to tear down walls and put in flooring. If those renovation options aren’t available to you, think about moving in with someone you trust whose space is more conducive to your needs. If that’s not possible, draw on all the helplines and resources at your disposal. These might include social networks, websites that promote awareness about disabilities, and family groups and community engagement centers for children and families who have disabilities.
Preparing for parenthood is challenging for everyone. But when you’ve already spent years developing habits for navigating through the world with cognitive issues or difficulty walking or moving around, adapting your world to meet the needs of another – and helpless – human being can be overwhelming. Be sure to adjust your living situation in such a way that lets you nurture your child as deeply and comfortably as possible.