Disabilities are physical or mental challenges that prevent people from being able to perform certain functions as well as most others. Children with disabilities may be born with them or they may develop sometime after birth. Common childhood disabilities include autism, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, and issues that can disrupt learning such as dyslexia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sensory processing deficits. Dealing with disability in childhood will have a lifelong impact on a person’s emotional, mental, and physical health, as well as their social interactions. Whether that impact is positive or negative has a lot to do with the support they receive at home.
Whether you are expecting a child and you learned about their disability from prenatal testing or you are adopting a child with an existing disability into your home, you can help facilitate a healthy environment that supports their healthy and happy development.
Preparing Your Home for a Child’s Disability
- If your child has a mobility issue and has to use an aid such as a wheelchair, make sure there is at least one step-free entrance into the home. Consider installing wheelchair ramps over stairs to give child more accessibility. Make sure doorways and hallways are wide enough and free of obstruction.
- The bathroom can be another room that children with disabilities find difficult to navigate. If possible, create a roll-in or walk-in shower option and lower shower controls to a child’s height to make bathing easier. If your child is visually impaired, have faucet handles labeled in braille. Install slip-proof flooring that can stand up to the humidity of the bathroom. Grab bars by the shower, tub, and toilet can help children with mobility disorders get up from these low-profile seats.
- Children with sensory input disorders need a clean and uncluttered home free of distractions. Set up a sensory corner where they can retreat and calm down when feeling overwhelmed. Since sensory processing issues are different for every child, only you know how best to personalize the area for your child’s needs.
Financial Tips for Parents of a Child with a Disability
From renovating your house to make it safe to paying for medical care, there are various financial costs when it comes to raising a child with a disability. Add those costs on top of the base price tag of raising a kid and it can seem overwhelming for most parents. Fortunately, there are resources available for these families.
In the United States, children with disabilities are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. These payments can be used to fund a competent insurance plan that covers the child’s needs. A good health insurance plan is crucial for children with disability. Studies show that children with disabilities who are insured are more likely to have a primary care provider, to be able to reach a specialist, and to have access to supporting services. Furthermore, parents of insured children with chronic conditions are more satisfied with their children's primary care, medications, specialty care, and overall health care.
When it comes to other expenses, such as modifying your home, there are special grants available that can help cover the cost. While applying for grants is a time-consuming process, you can reap thousands of dollars that can contribute to the household costs of raising a child with a disability. It may even be worth your time to hire a grant writer to actually craft the application -- that is, if you can make room in your budget until the money comes in.
Disabilities present challenges to both the child and the parent, but a supportive home life leads to happiness and health for everyone involved. Prepare your home for your child’s disability based on their needs. Use government resources and grants to fund things such as health insurance premiums and home renovations. With the right balance and a lot of love, every child -- even those with a disability -- can succeed.