How to Prepare Your Home and Life for a Disabled Child
By: Emily Graham
Anyone preparing to bring a new life into the world knows how overwhelming the challenge can be. Yet, when your child will begin life with a mental or physical disability, you face unique circumstances. In anticipation of parenting a special needs child, preparation can bring peace of mind and allow you to savor the joys of your little one.
Prepare a Soft Landing
The very word “home” evokes feelings of warmth, support, and security. By making some adjustments to your living environment, you can ensure your home is a sanctuary for you and your newborn. Every situation is unique, but there are some general adaptations to consider, such as ensuring your child has non-slip flooring if she will have mobility concerns and providing easy-to-handle toys and appropriate baby equipment, such as special needs strollers. Create an area where you and your baby can comfortably interact together, whether in the nursery or another place in your home where you spend a lot of time.
It can also be helpful to add automation to your living environment. As Fortune points out, many smart home features are a boon to those living with someone with a disability, such as outlets or plugs with motion sensors to ease tending your infant during the night. Think about ways to encourage independence for you and your baby, now and down the road.
Instead of trying to create an entirely accessible home all at once, one suggestion is to initially make simple and inexpensive modifications, then perform ongoing changes gradually. For example, gutting a bathroom is a major undertaking and can be quite costly, but installing grab bars is a relatively simple and affordable modification that greatly enhances accessibility. If your child will require special equipment for mobility, you can build your own threshold ramp. Wider doorways can be important to those requiring assistive devices, and installing expandable door hinges is an easy, effective, and inexpensive fix. Clever options abound, and you’re likely to find many smart solutions as you examine your home and get to know your little one.
Preparing your finances is crucial to ensuring your family’s security, both for now and in the future. One recommendation is to set up a will right away if you haven’t already done so. Also, check the benefits on your medical insurance policy and apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some experts suggest exploring child-only health insurance if you do not have insurance through your employer. Nolo.co, explains that a special needs trust is also in order, as it will help to ensure your child continues to receive government assistance, even if your circumstances should change. These trusts are often funded through life insurance policies. You will need to select an appropriate guardian and trustee, and where you live can influence the requirements of establishing the trust, so consider hiring an attorney for the process.
Taking Care of You
As a parent-to-be, it can be easy to get so caught up in your baby that you neglect yourself. However, as Psychology Today points out, self-care is a crucial parenting tool. Engage in restorative activities every day, such as journaling or listening to refreshing music. When you feel stressed, make notes about your concerns and put an action step for each worry. Reach out for help by touching base with a trustworthy friend, have lunch, and talk things through. Also, connect with the many resources available to help parents of special needs children, such as programs that help fund special equipment, as well as disability-specific organizations. There are plenty of opportunities for assistance out there to support you during your journey.
Parenthood is exciting and daunting all at once. You might feel overwhelmed at times, and your circumstances are unique. However, with some planning and preparation, you can ensure a secure home and life for you and your little one.
About the Author:
Emily Graham is the creator of mightymoms.net. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.