By: Ashley Taylor
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a disability. If you are one of them, you probably have many questions about starting a family of your own when you are differently abled than other parents. Luckily, regardless of ability, there are many ways to achieve your dream of being a parent and giving your child a happy, healthy, loving home.
Here’s some parent-to-parent advice on how to prepare your home – and your life – parenthood when you also have a disability:
Planning for Parenthood
There are many things to consider when planning for parenthood. If you have a genetic condition, it’s understandable to worry about passing it on to your child. Talking to your doctor can alleviate fears and help you understand what to expect.
Just like able-bodied parents, there are options available for you if you are struggling to conceive.The success and availability of in vitro fertilization have given hope to many infertile couples who have not been able to conceive. Since 1978, 5.4 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVF. Although you’ll want to plan in advance and save money for IVF treatments, it might be worth it for the chance to finally hold your own baby in your arms.
Whether you’re concerned about passing on a genetic condition or whether you’ve been struggling to conceive, adoption is also an option for you. Having a disability does not automatically disqualify you from adoption, although it might limit the countries or faith-based adoption services you can work with. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you are empowered to make the choice to adopt, if you decide that’s what’s best for your family.
Making some home modifications can help create a safer space for your future children as well as for yourselves. Both you and your child will thrive in a home that is safe and comfortable for all family members, regardless of ability.
One of the simplest and most low-cost ways to modify your home is to ensure that it is well-lit and that all pathways are clear of hazardous objects that may cause falls, trips, slips, or injuries. For those with limited wrist mobility, you could replace door knobs with door handles, which will also be beneficial for those living with arthritis or carpal tunnel.
Other modifications make childcare easier and more accessible. For instance, if you’re in a wheelchair, you might consider purchasing accessible furniture. Many options are available for parents with disabilities these days, including wheelchair-friendly cribs and baby changing carriers. When it comes to carrying your child, you could use a sling or purchase a specialized carrier that attaches directly to your wheelchair.
From worrying whether your child might inherit a genetic condition to having concerns about prenatal and postnatal health, the journey into parenthood is slightly different for all of us. As you plan for your future family, there might be unexpected worries, questions, or other situations that pop up along the way.
During each of these scenarios, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone; there are many, many other parents who’ve experienced something similar. It’s important to surround yourself with supportive loved ones, friends, and family. Join support groups and online communities for other disabled parents. You might even check to see if government assistance is available in your area.
In many respects, being a parent with a disability is very much like any other parent. Just because you are differently abled doesn’t mean you will love your children any differently. Parents and children come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and personalities – and none of them are perfect. As long as you love and care for your children and find a parenting style that works for your family, you will be the best possible parent you can be.
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