By: Emily Graham, Mighty Moms
Thirteen percent of Americans aged 35-64 live with a disability, along with six percent of Americans aged 18-34, according to the Pew Research Center. Many of those individuals will start families of their own. Parenting with a disability is a rewarding path for parents and children alike. These resources will help first-time parents prepare for the challenges and joys of disabled parenthood.
Preparing Financially for Parenthood
Every parent must revisit their household budget before having a child, but parents with disabilities have additional considerations to make.
Several programs exist to support low-income pregnant women and their children. If you received benefits previously, having a child may increase your benefit amounts. If you haven’t previously received benefits, your pregnancy or larger household size may make you eligible.
● Disability benefits: SSDI benefits may be extended to your child and a non-disabled spouse who serves as primary caregiver. SSI, however, does not extend benefits to dependents.
● Food assistance: Low-income parents can receive SNAP benefits or increase their benefit amount after having a child. You may also receive WIC throughout pregnancy and early childhood.
● Medicaid and CHIP: Medicaid offers health benefits to low-income adults and children. Even if your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid yourself, your child may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
People with disabilities are often charged higher premiums for life insurance, an issue that drives many parents with disabilities to question whether the financial product is worth the money. Life insurance isn’t strictly necessary if you have enough income and assets to provide for your family if one parent passes away, and most parents drop their policy once the kids are grown. However, the pros of life insurance outweigh the cons while children are young. If the primary earner passes away, life insurance lessens the blow to your family’s finances. If the primary caregiver dies, life insurance helps the surviving parent manage the high costs of childcare. U.S. News has advice regarding qualifying for life insurance with a disability and securing the lowest premiums possible.
Adapting Childcare Equipment
The market for adaptive parenting products is limited but growing. These are some of the best solutions other parents with disabilities have found for everyday childcare tasks.
● Cribs: Side-opening cribs offer accessibility for wheelchair users. New Mobility mentions several off-the-shelf options for side-opening cribs, although many parents find that modifying a traditional crib to their specific needs offers the most accessibility. Bedside cots are an excellent nighttime solution for parents with limited mobility.
● Strollers: Strollers that can be pushed with a single hand offer an adaptable solution for wheelchair-using parents and other parents limited to a single arm. Parents with limited bending ability prefer travel-system strollers over traditional strollers due to the higher mount. Promising new designs for wheelchair-attachable strollers have also emerged in recent years.
● Car seats: Swivel-base car seats make transfers easier for parents with limited reach. However, latching mechanisms present challenges to parents with reduced finger movement and other upper-body limitations. Try out different car seats in store to find what works best for you.
● Baby monitors: Parents who are deaf or hard of hearing can purchase flashing or vibrating baby monitors.
● Baths: Rather than investing in expensive bathroom modifications, disabled parents opt to bathe infants in a wheelchair-accessible sink or a tabletop tub.
● Baby carriers: Many parents find success with off-the-shelf wraps and baby carriers, which allow parents to carry their child while keeping hands free. Waist belts like the LapBaby are a popular option for wheelchair users. Wrapsody has some great babywearing tips for disabled parents.
● Clothing, diapers, and bibs: Items that attach with Velcro, rather than snaps, are an easy choice for parents with limited finger movement. Diapers with resealable tabs are also a smart pick, as they allow parents to reposition diapers as needed.
● Hands-free pumping bra: With this adaptive piece of equipment, a hands-free pumping bra enables a nursing mom to have her hands free for other tasks, or it can just make the act of pumping less tiring.
● Changing pads: Wiggle-free changing pads include straps for a secure diaper-changing solution for parents with visual impairment or physical disabilities.
Prepare for Your Future
With all this baby prep, don’t forget to prepare for your future too. Think about the specific ways in which your life will change once the baby arrives. Will you get a job for the first time or plan to return to work?. Are you familiar with reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities? Specific to parenthood and your disability, how will you communicate with pediatricians, dentists, daycare workers, teachers, etc.? It is important that you are familiar with your rights as it pertains to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding employment, housing, auxiliary aids/services, and education to name a few. You’ll also want to think ahead about help you might need in the first few weeks and months after baby’s arrival. Even if family and friends are available, consider looking into sitter services - specifically sitters who are good with babies -- to enable you to find pockets of time to sleep, do laundry or get out of the house.
Starting a family is a big step, and as a first-time parent, you can never be too prepared. In addition to the products and resources mentioned above, seek connection with other parents with disabilities. Through online and face-to-face networks, parents with disabilities can find advice for overcoming limitations and raising healthy and happy kids.
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