About the Author: Ashley Taylor uses DisabledParents.org to help other parents with disabilities to navigate the challenges of parenthood.
Parents With Disabilities
Between choking, SIDS, and developmental concerns, new parents usually have a running list of fears before and after baby comes home from the hospital.
However, if you have a disability, there are likely some additional concerns to contend with. Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is very real and being able to properly manage care taking tasks while maintaining adequate energy are just a couple of additional weights. But with a little planning, understanding your rights and some modifications around the home, you’ll be able to start this exciting new phase with confidence.
While it’s likely you already have some modifications in place such as a wheelchair ramp to get in and out of your home, there are reasonable modifications that can make your home safer for you and your child.
- Remove all tripping hazards: Half of all accidents within the home are related to falling. Clear clutter and replace worn carpeting to prevent a tumble. It’s also a good idea to install non-slip rugs, mats, and flooring.
- Install grab bars: If your bathroom isn’t already outfitted with bars in the tub and shower areas, this crucial modification can help you to safely bathe your children.
- Consider a chairlift: Ideally, your bedroom and the baby’s will be located downstairs for safety and convenience purposes — you may also need access to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Regardless, there may be times when you’re going to have to have to head upstairs, so if you can swing the expense ($1,000 for basic, up to $15,000 for custom that handles landings and turns), a chairlift can be a lifesaver. When you’re not accessing the stairs, place safety gates at the top and bottom to prevent your child from falling if you can’t get to him/her fast enough.
- Lower your counters: Having a lower counter or table in the baby’s room can help with changing, but consider lowering some of the counter space, the stove, and microwave in the kitchen so it’s easier to prepare meals. Make sure your baby’s bottles, food etc., are within reach, too.
- Label your child’s food: If vision is an issue, use textured tape or braille labels to help you prepare meals with ease.
Purchase Adaptable Products
There are several ready-made products on the market that can assist you with childcare skills, to include:
- Modified/lower sinks and faucets.
- Velcro bibs, shoes and fastener-free baby rompers and baby jumpsuits for those who have mobility issues with their hands. Check out Unsie™ in action.
- Oversized hardware for furniture so it’s easier to open.
- Soft and lightweight hands-free baby carriers to put less strain on spinal injuries.
- Hands-free seats like the Lap Baby or the Sit Seat are also great options with or without a wheelchair.
- Low hanger racks.
- Raised toilet seats to make potty training easier.
- Co-sleepers at the same level as your bed or Custom cribs that open from the side making it easier to take your baby in and out.
- Adaptive strollers.
Whether you have a physical or mental disability, it’s imperative that you’re taking care of yourself in order to properly take care of your family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — establishing a solid support system prior to the arrival of your baby can make it easier to reach out later on. Designate a specific area in your home to be a place of peace where you can chill out and collect your thoughts. Paint the walls in a soothing shade of blue or green, bring in a few plants, put a dimmer on the light switch, and make sure there’s a comfortable piece of furniture for you to rest in. With a newborn in your home, sleep can be difficult. If your mattress is more than 10 years old, it may be time to purchase a new one.
Some home modifications can be on the pricey side, but it’s not a good idea to skimp on quality (or try a DIY project you’re not comfortable with) as safety should be top of mind for you and your baby. Look into seeing if you can secure funding assistance. Since this acceptance process can take some time, make sure you start reaching out as soon as possible.
Parent Information and Resources
Part of planning is to know where to find information and resources. There is so much data to show the barriers parents with disabilities face in retaining custody of their children. The National Council On Disability demonstrates how society disproportionately removes children from homes of disabled parents where there is no abuse or neglect.
Understand how to receive the support you need in order to keep your children with you. Below is a short list of resources to check out.
- The National Council On Disability published a toolkit for parents with disabilities in 2016 that is worth reading.
- Here is an inspiring video for parents with disabilities and is worthwhile sharing with anyone who questions your ability to parent.
- To engage directly with a community there are also Facebook groups including the Disabled Parenting Project, Parents With Disabilities, Disabled Parents, Disabled Parents Rights, and Parents Helping Parents (for both parents who are disabled and parents who have disabled children.)
- Disabled Parenting, Disabled Parents and Child Welfare are helpful websites.