By Ashley Taylor of disabledparents.org
The months and weeks that lead up to a baby’s delivery are filled with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. All parents, from new ones to seasoned vets, fret over whether the home is ready for their new addition and if they bought the best stroller. For a disabled parent, these fears are multiplied. With a little planning and research on available resources, however, every parent can enjoy raising their newborn.
It’s never too early to start planning
Not to get impersonal, but raising an infant is much like managing a project. You identify goals, such as the health and safety of the child, stability, and overall family happiness. Then, you look for the resources that you need to put into place and the potential hurdles you may face. Understanding likely struggles will arm you with responses when they arise. As a disabled person, you have more than likely applied these principles to your daily life. Once you’ve made your initial plan, start gathering information.
Parenting resources are everywhere, even for the disabled
Every parent-to-be buys parenting books and magazines. According to Parents Magazine, 90 percent of all mothers have read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a book that has sold over 14 million copies over the past 25 years. It’s a must-read for all future parents and includes helpful information during and after pregnancy for those with disabilities. Disabled parents have access to more resources as well, such as help with navigating social services and grant resources.
Get help from others
Some of the best help for any parent comes from those who have gone through the same experience, and this is especially the case with disabled parenting. Through the Looking Glass (TLG) is a nonprofit organization that offers services, such as information, referrals, and consultation, to parents with disabilities. TLG also provides a lifeline to disabled parents, including connection with peers and mentors for those who are seeking help. Other parents who have successfully raised children with their disabilities can help by sharing their struggles and achievements, but they also act as role models who dispel common myths about disabled parenting.
With your resources and plan in hand, prepare your house for your baby
You are likely already accustomed to making modifications to your environment to ensure safety and access, and you know the limitations of your particular disability. If you have mobility issues, consider placement of the baby’s room where your wheelchair or walker will have access, but also consider how an infant quickly evolves from a sleepy bundle to a crawling ball of energy. And just like any other parent, you will quickly learn that there are many products to help you as your child grows.
The right equipment can ease any parenting difficulty
Today, disabled parents have access to a large marketplace of adapted parenting products. These include cribs that attach to your bed, chest-harness baby carriers, accessible strollers, and velcro bibs, to name just a few. TLG provides a wonderful chart highlighting several adapted parenting products, with details on price, availability, and the specific physical or sensory limitations that each product addresses.
Infant car seats are another example of crucial parenting equipment. Even for non-driving parents, they provide a method for carrying infants, but they can be difficult to use. Swivel-base baby car seats make it easy for a disabled parent to place or remove the infant seat from the seated position of a wheelchair, for example. As your child grows, you can transition to an inflatable booster seat, which is much easier to carry and install. Before buying a car seat, make sure to read some reviews online, like those from Family Living Today, a site which also has reviews and recommendations for other baby and children’s products.
There are many resources for parents with disabilities. Insight from those who have been in your shoes and information from support groups can help you ensure that your baby can thrive in the safe environment of your home. After a little careful planning, parenting will be a joy for everyone.
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