It’s very scary for parents to learn that their child has a disability. Raising a child is already daunting enough, especially if it’s your first child, and a lot of parents worry about whether they’ll be able to offer the level of care that a disabled child may need. While it’s true that it is going to be difficult, you can still make sure that your child is happy and healthy and has everything that they need as long as you look for support when you need it and recognize that you are taking on an extra role as your child’s carer as well as their parent in some cases. If you’re worried about the prospect of raising a disabled child, here is some good advice to help put things in perspective.

Understand Their Disability

Every parent has those moments when they second guess themselves and wonder whether they’re really doing what’s best for their child, but parents of a disabled child are likely to feel like that a lot of the time. If you don’t know that much about their disability and how it affects them, it’s difficult to know how you should be caring for them. For example, if you’re caring for a child that has autism, it’s often very important that they have a strict routine and any change in that routine could be a serious cause of stress for them. But if you don’t know that, you’re going to struggle to care for them and make sure that they’re happy. That’s why it’s so important that you understand your child’s disability. Look for resources online and buy books about it that you can read. Having a better understanding of how your child is affected will help you to make better decisions about their care.

Assess Their Needs

Once you’ve learned about your child’s disability, you should have a better understanding of their day to day needs and how you should be caring for them. At this point, you should assess those needs and decide how you’re going to meet them. For example, if your child is confined to a wheelchair, you may need to install a stairlift so they can get upstairs or perhaps even consider moving to a different home that is on one level. They may also need to attend a specific school for children with disabilities so they’re getting the extra help that they need with their education. If there isn’t one near to your area, you’ll need to make arrangements for that as well. If your child needs somebody with them at all times, you may need to pay for a carer. It’s important that you understand all of their specific needs and start taking steps to meet them right away.

Look For Financial Assistance

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If you are the parent of a disabled child, you may be eligible for some kind of financial assistance. Meeting the specific needs of your child will cost you money and if you’re trying to cover all of those costs yourself, you could find yourself in a difficult financial position. In some cases, if your child needs round the clock care, you or your partner may have to leave work which is going to put even more strain on your finances.

There are so many different government programs to help you with the financial side of looking after a disabled child. You can claim $6,000 a year for the first 2 years of your child’s life if they need specialist equipment or care. If you’re taking on the role of carer yourself, you may be eligible for a carer payment from the government. Alternatively, you can claim money to pay another carer if you’re going to be returning to work at some point. You should also qualify for help with your medical insurance to make sure that everything that your child might need is covered. It’s important that you look into all of these different assistance programs and claim whatever you’re entitled to. It’ll make the process so much easier for you.

Encourage Independence

When your child has a disability, the natural instinct is to protect them and do everything for them, but that isn’t always the best way to care for them. If they’re going to live a full life, it’s important that you encourage independence in your child. In some cases, this might not be possible because their disability won’t allow it and they need constant care. But if your child is able to do things on their own safely, you should try to encourage it as much as possible. This is especially important as your child gets older. There are a lot of benefits of independent living for people with disabilities so it’s something that you should definitely look into. Just because your child has a disability and they need a bit of extra help with some things, that doesn’t mean that they can’t move out and live on their own. If you’re not allowing them their independence, you’re allowing the disability to affect their quality of life in a way that it doesn’t have to.

Find Support Networks

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Your first priority is always going to be your child and living with a disability is going to be hard for them, but it’s important to remember that this is hard for you as well. It can be very stressful and emotionally draining to care for a child with a disability and it can have a big impact on your wellbeing. That’s why it’s important that you look after yourself and find your own support networks as well. There are support groups for parents where you can share stories and talk about the difficulties that you’re facing at the moment. It’s also a great source of advice from parents that have more experience than you so it makes it easier for you to know whether you’re doing things right or not.

Consider Your Other Children

This is incredibly important as well because a child with disabilities can take up a lot of your time and energy. They will need more care and attention than your other children and that can be difficult. You don’t want your other children to feel as though they’re being neglected or that you don’t care about them as much as their sibling. Good communication is the key to dealing with this problem. Explain to your other children that their sibling has a disability and they need that extra care but that doesn’t mean that you are playing favourites. If you can help the rest of your children to understand the situation properly, it will alleviate some of their fears. You should also try to involve them in some of the care duties, so you’re looking after one another as a family.

There are some great support networks out there for the siblings of disabled children as well, so it’s worth looking into those as well. YoungSibs is a great online community where the siblings of disabled children can connect and talk about their lives with other children that are in a similar situation. It’s a good place for them to get advice from one another and offer general support. They can also get in touch with experts that can give them guidance on certain things that they might not want to talk to you about.

If you don’t have any other children yet but you plan to in the near future, it may be worth rethinking that. When your family starts to grow, it brings a whole host of new challenges. You have to think about moving into a bigger house so you’ve got enough space, start budgeting your money differently so you can afford everything that you need for your new child, and work out how you’re going to split your time. It’s always a challenge having another child but it’s going to be even harder if your first child has a disability. Are you really prepared to look after a newborn baby while also caring for your first child? Can you afford to buy everything that you need for a second child when you’re paying for the extra care that your first child needs? Often, the answer to those questions is no. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any more children at all, but it might be better to wait. When your first child is a bit older and they have more independence, they may not require quite as much care from you, giving you more time to care for another child. Waiting a few years also gives you more time to put yourself in a better financial position.

Raising a disabled child is always going to be hard, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. When you first find out that your child has a disability, it’s only natural to panic and wonder whether you’re really cut out for this. But as long as you look for support where you can find it and take the time to understand your child’s specific needs, you can be a great parent to them and help them to live a full and happy life.  

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