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Background Pieces

Disability and Parenthood

By Ashley Taylor

Most couples have questions about parenthood: Will I be a good parent? Do we have enough money? How will I handle a crisis? Being a parent with a disability is no different. You may be wondering if you should have children if you have an inherited disability, if your disability will hinder you from day-to-day parenting tasks, if your home is safe enough, or who you can turn to if you need help.

You aren’t alone in your questions. The good news is that there are many resources available, and many are within your own community. A report conducted by DisabledWorld.com states that 10 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability—many of them parents just like you.

Resources for Support

Where genetics are concerned, you can receive genetic counseling grounded in the latest research to help answer relevant questions. The best decisions are made with the best information.

If you have a baby with special needs, or will have one in the future either by natural birth or adoption, support groups are waiting to help you as well. Sometimes there is nothing as valuable as information and understanding from parents who are dealing with the same issues you are. Often you can locate a group online, or ask for a referral from a medical or social services professional. Lifelong friendships can be formed, and this means a lifetime of listening ears, helping hands, and a shoulder to lean on.

Home Modifications

If you’re worried that your home needs a little rearranging to accommodate parenthood, then relax. There are affordable solutions available. If you’re the DIY type, then this will save you even more money. Depending on your disability, you may qualify for a government grant to help with the expenses. In some cases, government agencies will come to your home and do the necessary changes for you. For the home itself, consider expandable hinges for doorways, skid-resistant floors, and ramps.

When it comes to finding accessible furniture and baby items, you’ll have plenty to choose from—some you may have never heard of before, like wheelchair accessories that include portable ramps, trays for snacking or playing with your little one, and a wheel pouch that can double as a diaper bag, just to name a few.

Bonding and close interaction with your baby are critical for development and happiness, and there are many products to help you do this. Never think that you have to sit on the sidelines and simply watch your child grow up. You can become directly involved in his or her care. There are bassinets and small cribs that you can pull right up next to your bed and slide open on the side, which allows you to reach into the crib and attend to the baby with ease. There are height-adjustable swings, Velcro baby bibs, baby monitors, security cameras, chest harnesses, baby lifters, and a myriad of other choices.

Helpful Services

To help you in your day-to-day parenting tasks, you can call on short-term or long-term services, depending on your needs and the needs of your family. A specialist can visit your home to assess your situation and identify what you need.

Some parents are wary of visits from a social services agency, but the agency’s job is to help you be the best parent you can be. Part of this includes referrals to different agencies that offer assistance. Sometimes help can be found under one roof. Other times it’s found in a variety of organizations. It may be confusing trying to sort out which programs you qualify for, so asking for help is the best and quickest way to receive it.

Today’s technology and inventions enable the disabled to do things that seemed impossible in the past, and that includes parenting. If you have a disability but dream of becoming a parent, try not to be discouraged by potential obstacles. Instead, ask for help when you need it, and prepare your home and life for the greatest gift you’ll ever receive.

Ashley Taylor can be reached at Disabledparents.org.