April 23, 2019
First-time parents have a never-ending to-do list. You’re constantly learning new things you need to do to get ready for your child, from stocking the freezer to readying the nursery to even preparing your dog for a new baby. For parents with disabilities, the list is a little longer.
If you have a disability, these are five important issues you need to plan for before bringing your child home.
Let’s start with the tough stuff: Even if your disability doesn’t affect your life expectancy, you need to plan for your eventual death. Life can change in a flash. Without the necessary protections in place, an unexpected death would be a major financial burden on your family. In addition to a will, where you’ll name a guardian for your child and allocate assets, you need to set up a life insurance policy and burial policy before your child is born. Complete the process for both parents — even if one parent is the primary earner, it takes both of your resources to keep the family running.
Kids aren’t cheap, and parents with disabilities often face higher costs than non-disabled parents. Not only do you have to buy baby care essentials like diapers and car seats, but you also have to pay for adaptive equipment, home modifications, occupational therapy, and other products and services that facilitate independent parenthood.
If you earn an income through work, use your income along with your spouse’s to create an updated household budget that includes your child’s expenses. Don’t forget to factor how your health insurance premiums will increase after adding a child to the policy or how your income will change if either parent reduces their work hours to provide childcare.
If you receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, you can receive additional payments for your baby. This is true whether your child is biological or adopted. If your spouse will be your child’s primary caregiver, your spouse may receive disability benefits as well. You can learn more about how having a child affects your disability benefits at the Social Security Administration’s website.
Parents with disabilities must be extra careful when buying cribs, strollers, car seats, and other baby equipment. Expect to do a lot of research and spend a lot of time testing different products to find baby gear that’s adaptable to your disability. Online reviews are a great source of detailed information on different childcare products. You can also find information on adaptive and adaptable baby products on disability websites like the Disabled Parenting Project and Disability Horizons. If you can’t come up with the right solutions for your disability, seek guidance from an occupational therapist.
If you’ve been putting off home modifications, now is the time to buckle down and complete them. If you’re already struggling to open drawers, move through narrow doorways, or walk up the stairs, it will only get harder when you’re caring for a baby. Not enough room in the budget for home modifications? Look for low-cost ways to adapt your home, like moving your bedroom and the baby’s to the first floor, reorganizing so everyday items are easily accessible, and installing smart home devices that let you accomplish more with less effort.
These issues aren’t exclusive to parents with disabilities — everyone has to shop for baby gear, childproof their home, and revisit their finances when adding a child to the family. But when you live with a disability, it’s especially important that you plan for this next chapter in life.
– Jenny Wise