Friday, December 21, 2018

Welcome to Parenthood: Positive Parenting When You Have a Disability


Parenthood is a gift. There’s a little person whom you get to love with every fiber of your being. You are his world, and he is your light. You get to watch him grow and develop into the person that he is meant to be. Your days are spent nurturing him, teaching him, and watching him play with curiosity and delight. He is your source of joy.

But what is parenting like when you have a disability that could limit your physical ability to care for your child? Parenting is already complex on its own, but it shouldn’t have to be further complicated by having physical limitations. Before you begin raising a family, understand what needs to be done to make your life easier when your child comes.

Modify Your Home

There’s no more sitting around and relaxing once you have a child. Babies need day and night care, and toddlers run around all over the home like a force of nature. Since you’ll be chasing children around the house and trying to keep up with their constant movement, your home should be as safe as possible for your health condition. You may have already modified your home a bit to accommodate your disability in parenthood, but it could help to make the following changes, if you haven’t already:

Widen doorways for ease of movement from room to room.
Install expandable hinges to add inches to your doorways.
Install rails and handle bars on walls, staircases, and in the bathroom, where you could be prone to slipping.
Add ramps to steps or replace steps entirely.
Add a stair lift to the stairs, if you have them.
Purchase anti-skid flooring, such as vinyl or linoleum.
Remove tripping hazards by securing carpets and removing rugs.
Replace the step-in bathtub with a walk-in shower, and install a removable shower head at a lower level.
Lower the counters in the bathroom and kitchen. If you use a wheelchair to get around, carve out space under the counters for your chair to fit.
Keep your children’s play area and toys tidy and contained. The center of the room should be clutter-free, and large objects should be anchored to the wall to prevent accidents.

Modify Your Vehicle

Kids need to get around to school and activities, but your disability doesn’t mean that you will never be able to drive them. Even cars can be modified to allow disabled drivers to take the wheel. With adaptive equipment, your car can accommodate lifts, hand controls, and wheelchair restraints to make it possible for you to drive.

Build a Tribe

You might have to rely on help to get through the parenting years for tasks like babysitting, house cleaning, transportation, and grocery delivery. Your parenting tribe can include a multitude of people from both paid and voluntary help.

Consider all your options. Do you have close friends or family members that can fit time into their schedule to help you once a week? Is there a neighbor or other parent that you can count on when you need help with childcare? Do you have the funds to hire someone when you need an extra set of hands around the house? Talk to your child’s school to see what you can work out, and look up resources that offer support for disabled individuals and parents.

Know Your Limits

Living with a disability doesn’t have to stop you from living a normal life. You might be surprised at what you’re capable of doing. It could be your own fears that are holding you back or an old diagnosis making you think you can’t do certain things. Meet with your doctor to discuss your physical capabilities, limitations, improvements, goals, and therapy or treatment options to improve your condition.

While it is a little trickier to prepare for children when you have a disability, the best way to tackle it is to have a plan. Use every resource that’s available to you, and be willing to ask for help. Disability comes with challenges, but parenting doesn’t have to be one of them.

This is a guest post from Ashley Taylor ( ataylor@disabledparents.org)

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