When you’re told that your child will be born with a mental or physical disability, the news can be crushing and leave you with many doubts. Will you be able to provide for them? Will their childhood be as full of joy as the other kids? Will you have the stamina to carry on when the going gets tough? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Though you’re facing the greatest challenge of your life, you can see it through with plenty of love and the right preparation.
Here are some things to do before your baby arrives in this world.
Research Their Disability
How you get ready mentally, physically, and financially depends on the nature of your child’s disability and what obstacles they will face growing up. A good place to start your inquiries is Parent to Parent USA. Not only will you find a treasure trove of information on conditions ranging from blindness to mobility impairment to Down syndrome, this organization will put you in contact with other parents who have already faced the same challenges.
Look Into Financial Aid
Read up on the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, which is a federal law that guarantees your child access to early intervention, special education, and related services from birth until adulthood. These include therapy sessions either at home or in the community to aid in the development of motor, cognitive, and communication skills needed to thrive during their infant and toddler years. Grants are available through agencies in each state.
Find Support From Nonprofits
There are also a number of charity organizations that are ready to step in and offer assistance when federal aid is insufficient. Many of these are devoted to children suffering from specific conditions such as autism, while others, like the Legacy of Hope, offer access to exciting activities outside of education such as art classes, music lessons, and even horseback riding, helping to ensure a well rounded and enjoyable childhood.
Begin Navigating Health Insurance
Thanks to recent health care reforms, insurers cannot deny coverage to children under the age of 19 based on pre-existing conditions including disabilities, according to the experts at Allied Wealth Partners, adding that you have 30 days after the birth of your child to add them to your health plan. Speak with your insurer to find out which physicians and providers are in-network to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Depending on your income, you may also qualify for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
There will be items that you have to pay for yourself. Luckily, more and more states are offering residents as well as non-residents the opportunity to open a tax-advantaged ABLE account for any disabled person under the age of 26, with contributions limited to $14,000 per beneficiary per year, according to finance magazine Kiplinger. This money can be withdrawn tax-free and used to cover medical treatment and other expenses.
Prepare Your Home
You’ll need to make some modifications to ensure that your child is safe and can move around comfortably. If they’ll be confined to a wheelchair, then begin your research into options for improved accessibility, such as wheelchair ramps, which cost $1,604 on average. Other renovations include grab rails in the bathroom as well as a roll-in shower to make washing up easier at the end of the day. Contact local professionals to get an estimate in your area.
Take Care of Yourself
Giving your child the support and attention they deserve is impossible if you are tired and strung out. Begin a regimen of self-care now to ensure you’re in the best possible condition when the parenting begins. That, above all, means a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and a good night’s rest, as well as techniques for relieving stress such as meditation or yoga.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but rest assured that there are ways to overcome the obstacles that you and your child face. It just takes love and courage, and you’ve got both in spades.