Photo Credit: Unsplash
This article is a guest post from Ashley Taylor at disabledparents.org
There’s always a certain amount of unknowns when you’re expecting a child. They will have their own personality, their own quirks, their own schedules, and their own physical, mental, and emotional responses. Welcoming a new child is an exciting time, but it can also be scary and stressful. If you’re a parent expecting a child with special needs (physical or mental), there are added worries and concerns on top of it all. This article will address certain concerns particular to parents of a special needs child and can help you prepare for your new bundle of joy.
Preparing Your Home
A young child entering the home means the home will need to be baby-proofed once he or she starts moving about. Outlets need to be covered, sharp edges of furniture need to be padded, locks installed, and baby gates put up. If you’re expecting a child with physical or mental disabilities, however, some extra precautions may need to be taken. If your child will have to use monitors or other devices, you’ll want to speak with EMS and your baby’s doctors prior to your baby’s arrival on how the devices will work and how EMS will respond. Some people with special needs greatly benefit from a service dog, which can provide physical assistance with things like balance, retrieving items, and alerting in case of an emergency. Service dogs also prove to be therapeutic for the whole family. However, it’s best to consult with your doctor and your child’s doctors to prepare specifically for your baby.
Understanding Medical Coverage
Children with special needs have extra costly medical concerns that can be mitigated through insurance and public benefits. Families with children who require public benefits will need to be in contact with the governmental agencies early on to get information and start applying. If you have private insurance, take out your policy and fully examine what is covered, what providers and specialists are available to your child in network, what therapies are covered, and what the appeals process looks like. The more you educate yourself on what resources are available and what services are covered, the less out-of-pocket expenses you will have.
Just as all parents plan for big events in their child’s life, you will need to financially prepare for unexpected medical costs associated with your child’s disability. You’ll want to save for your child’s future care, but in doing so, ensure that such savings don’t prevent them from accessing any public benefits. Depending on your child’s diagnoses and what care is and will be required, you may want to consider whether you can downsize, what assets are needed, whether your career affords you the flexibility to attend to your child’s needs or whether you can hire a caregiver, and your income and expenses. Taking a thorough look at your finances and implementing change early on can save you from added stress in the future. This may also include purchasing a life insurance policy, perhaps one with final expense coverage that will pay for your funeral and other expenses to help alleviate those worries at the time.
Taking Time for Yourself
Parenting is exhausting, and that exhaustion can become overwhelming when you have a child with special needs. It’s important that you plan to take breaks when you can and have some personal time, whether it’s a nice bubble bath, exercise, or a weekend getaway. Your child’s care will only be as good as your own, so you’ll need to make your self-care a priority. Early on it it’s critical that you build a network of support and have conversations with people you trust to care for your child when you need to get away. Join a support group of parents with children with special needs who you can relate to and lean on for advice. Self-care and community are important tools for both you and your entire family.
Expecting a child with disabilities comes with its challenges, but preparing ahead of time as much as you can will make life a little easier. You can prepare by taking steps to adapt your home to your child’s needs, educating yourself on insurance policies, procedures, and benefits, preparing financially, and planning for your self-care. There is no way to be fully be prepared for your child with special needs, but there are steps you can take to equip yourself with all you need to embark on this journey.