Statistics show that about three percent of all babies in the U.S. are born with some form of physical or mental disability. It can be overwhelming if you're expecting a baby with an impairment, as you have to navigate the world of special needs on top of traditional parenting — but it's not an impossible feat. Here's how to prepare so that you can provide the best life for your child and yourself, too.
Make Accessibility Improvements
While you may need to make additional modifications along the way once you see how your child is developing, typical adaptations to make include adding a wheelchair ramp, adding easy-to-turn knobs on doors and sinks, installing soundproof windows and blackout curtains in the bedroom in case they're experiencing sensory overload, installing grab bars to assist with bathing, minimizing fluorescent lighting, getting noise-controlled appliances to minimize sounds, and lowering storage (from the closet’s hanging bar to low shelving and drawers) so that items are easier to reach. It's not a bad idea to talk to other parents with a child who has the same disability to see what modifications have worked best. Just make sure to research various companies that sell such equipment before making an impulse purchase. Look into the various financial aid programs, loans, and grants to help you pay for everything, and don't forget that you can make tax deductions for medical expenses. When it comes to the actual work, find a contractor who has worked on modifications in the past.
In some cases, it may make more sense to move into a home that's already accessible, so conduct some research to see what your options are. Keep in mind that the average cost of an accessible property in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is $650,000.
Research Education Options In Advance
It's never too early to research education options for your child, starting with the public schools in your area to see what type of special education options are being offered. While the IDEA Act of 2004 requires that all disabled students receive free, public education, some parents prefer a private school catering to those with special needs because they receive more individualized attention. Of course, that comes with a hefty price tag, so it's a good idea to look into whether or not you qualify for any funding.
It's not uncommon for parents of a special needs child to feel burnt out. With that in mind, it's crucial that you're administering self-care so that you can be on the top of your game for your family while preventing illness or disease — both physical and mental. Work out a schedule with your spouse or partner so that you can each have time for yourselves to go to the gym, read, meditate, or catch up with friends. It's also important that you make time to do things together so that your relationship doesn't suffer. If you're a single parent, don't be afraid institute the help of family and friends.
Build A Support System
Nobody is going to understand what you're going through like another parent with a special needs child, so make an effort to connect with several support groups to help you navigate the parenting process. Research suggests that parenting a child with a disability can be psychologically distressing, so an online source or in-person support system can help with feelings of isolation, fear, and stress.
It's important to remember that you're doing your best, so don't beat yourself up. It's likely that your journey will have its ups and downs, so the only thing you can do is to try to prepare from a mental and resource standpoint. Knowledge is power, so build a network of good doctors, teachers, and other parents in your situation to help you along the way.
* Written by Emily Graham, Creator of Mighty Moms, Emily 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.