Preparing Your Life for a Special Needs Child

By Jenny Wise

There are so many thoughts and emotions that whirl through your mind when you learn your baby has a disability. Once the initial surge of emotions has passed, it's time to think seriously about how you'll prepare your life for a child with a disability. These are the five things every parent of a special needs child should do before their baby is born.

Preparing Your Life for a Special Needs Child

Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Prepare Your Home

Once you understand the nature of your child's disability, start thinking about home modifications that will create a safe, accessible environment for your child. Modifications will likely be minimal when your child is a newborn and can't move around, but as your child grows older, you'll want your home to be an environment that fosters independence. Planning now allows you to budget and schedule remodeling accordingly.

Accessibility remodeling can be costly. If you're worried you can't afford to modify your home, look into grants and other assistance programs. There are a variety of organizations that help families adapt their homes for disabilities.

Prepare Your Finances

may qualify for monthly SSI payments through the Social Security Administration. In most states, Medicaid eligibility is automatically triggered by SSI approval. You can learn more about SSI benefits at BBVA Compass. Whether you qualify for assistance or not, you'll need to carefully review your household budget to make room for your child's expenses. Consider that you may need to scale back how much you work in order to care for your child.

There are many other financial considerations for families with special needs children, many of them too complicated to go into here. You can read up on the basics at The Simple Dollar, but it's recommended you talk to a financial planner and an attorney.

Know Your Healthcare Options

About half of all children with special needs receive healthcare coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. There are several pathways through which you can qualify for Medicaid, so don't assume your income makes you ineligible before doing your research. Families that don't quality for needs-based medical assistance must buy insurance through their employer or the public healthcare exchange. You may choose to double up on insurance to maximize coverage.

If buying insurance, pay attention to the out-of-pocket limit. Children with extensive healthcare needs hit their out-of-pocket limits quickly. You may save money by paying more for a policy with a lower out-of-pocket limit.

Identify Your Support System

Every new parent needs a support system, but support is especially important for parents of a child with disabilities. Seek and accept help from your friends and family. If you're not getting the support you need, ask for it. Many times, our loved ones want to help but don't know how and are afraid of overstepping. It's also important to seek support from parents who understand what you're going through. Online communities, blogs and support groups are safe spaces where you can connect and learn from other parents of special needs children.

Don't discount professional support. In addition to early intervention services, consider hiring home health care, a housekeeper and a counselor to lighten your load and help you cope.

Make a Self-Care Plan

It probably feels wrong to think about yourself right now, but the truth is, your baby needs you to. You're responsible for keeping your child safe, healthy and loved. If you're not taking care of yourself, you can't give your child your best.

Keep up with your healthy habits, like eating fresh food and exercising. If you need to schedule everything out and automate your meals through meal planning, batch cooking or meal delivery services, do it. Sleep when you can, even if that means hiring someone to clean the house so you can nap when the baby naps. And try to stay focused on the positives—keep a gratitude journal, give yourself pep talks, or do whatever else keeps you looking at the bright side.

Nothing can truly prepare you for raising a child with disabilities and the many joys and sorrows parenthood brings. However, when you address these questions before your baby arrives, you enter parenthood as ready as you can be.

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