By: Emily Graham
Congratulations! You’re about to become a parent. You have it all figured out, but you’re also scared and unprepared. And then your doctor informs you that your child will be born with a physical or mental disability. Take a deep breath and realize that your world is not collapsing. Other families have done it, and you can too. Resources are plentiful, support groups are there to help you get through this, and the world has made great technological and medical advancements to assist you.
One of the most important things to consider in the care of a disabled child is healthcare. Run-of-the-mill pediatric care might not be enough to cover the needs of your family, especially if you’re making frequent trips to the doctor or physical therapy. Every insurance policy will be different, and some will even allow adults with disabilities to remain on their parents’ plan indefinitely. Talk to your insurance provider and get information from Healthcare.gov on disability benefits. Ask your insurance provider about the benefits, costs, coverage into adulthood, and how the plan affects SSI and SSDI.
Raising children can be costly, and the costs of raising a child with a disability could be even more than you expect. You’ll have to plan for additional expenses like therapists and coaches, medications, devices that help your child’s mobility, caregivers, doctor co-pays, special education, making your home accessible, and possibly even providing income support to your child in their adult years.
Preparing Your Home
If your current home isn’t suitable for a child with disabilities, you can make accessibility modifications or buy a new home that’s built to be accessible. If you choose to move, start by searching online for accessible homes in your area. The average listing price for accessible homes in Denver, Colorado, is $490,000. If you’re expecting a child who will need a wheelchair and you choose to stay in your home, you can install ramps, wider door frames, lower switches, doors that can be controlled with a button, a shower that can be entered without steps, bars and handles in the bathroom, and cabinets and closet doors that slide open instead of swinging out. Check out these low-cost solutions for an accessible home.
Many parents decide to move when they’re expecting children because they want their children in a good school district. Parents of children with disabilities will also have to consider their neighborhood based on schools, but for different reasons. As you’re deciding where to live, research schools with special needs programs in your area. There are different types of programs for kids with disabilities. Some schools have excellent special education programs, and some schools only cater to children with disabilities. You can choose an education of inclusion (same classroom as non-disabled students), separation (different classrooms at a traditional school), or a school that’s dedicated to special needs.
Take Care of You
Your life will undoubtedly become more challenging and time-consuming when you have a child, especially a child with a disability. Sacrifices will be made and personal needs will be neglected. Make sure you take care of yourself. Your individual needs still matter, and you’ll be a better parent to your child if your own physical and mental well-being are addressed. Give yourself days off while your partner has days on. Go for a run, a day at the museum, or a spa day with friends. Hire a caregiver for your child, and set aside date nights so both parents can continue to foster the relationship. You can be a great parent while still treating yourself, and your family will be stronger as a result.
As your child develops and grows, their needs will too. Consider this a starter guide to help you navigate the challenging waters of raising a disabled child, but your own additional research will bring up more answers to your questions. Your child’s individual disability will have its own set of needs that you’ll have to accommodate. Find a support group or a resource center that can help you make the right choices for your family. You are not alone.