Preparing for a Child with Disabilities

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It’s something that no parent wants to hear. Before your child is even born you can be told about severe disadvantages that your child may have in life. It is a heartbreaking moment, but it shouldn’t be a life-breaking one. Finding out early can prepare you to understand some of the challenges that you and your child will face, so you can focus on bringing the most happiness into your child’s life. Even if your child is injured at birth or develops a disability later during their development, such as autism, you can be prepared.

Prenatal Testing

A prenatal test cannot determine whether your child will develop autism or other learning problems but it can give parents tremendous amounts of insight into the health of their baby. Prenatal testing allows parents to know if their child will have down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, or other genetic abnormalities before the child is born. There are a range of tests that can be done in the prenatal period.

Blood tests happen regularly during pregnancy, and while they don’t give much information on the baby, they do check on the health of mother.

Ultrasound is one of the most well-known prenatal tests. Obviously, it is the key tool used to determine the babies gender, but a skilled ultrasound technician can also verify how viable the pregnancy is and how far along the pregnancy is. Ultrasounds also give doctors the opportunity to check on the child visually, to ensure that everything is ok with its limbs, organs, and for any heart defects.

Amnicentesis is commonly used during high risk pregnancies, when doctors already suspect that there might be a problem. The procedure is done using an ultrasound-guided needle, which removes a small amount of amniotic fluid. The fluid is then taking to a lab and used to test for Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis.

Other prenatal tests include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and Triple or Quad screens. Both of these test for genetic abnormalities or defects including spina bifida.


If you know your child is going to be born with certain conditions, researching that condition will give you better insight on not only his or her life, but the experiences of other parents. Learning about treatment options will give you a solid foundation to build from. If you look on the Internet, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. The Internet is a wonderful place, with all the information you could ever need at your fingertips, but a whole lot of filler too. Plus, most of the stories you’ll see on the Internet feature either the best or worst case scenarios. While that could certainly be your experience too, it is more likely that you will fall somewhere in the middle.

Another good idea is to contact your hospital based social worker. Most hospitals have one or two social workers who have dealt with similar cases before. They can give you support and advice for raising a child with disability. On that same note, many communities also offer support groups for parents and children with specific conditions. Attending meetings can relieve anxiety and create a better sense of comfort, as you hear the stories of other people who have been through the same things as you.

Figuring out the best health insurance plan for your family will be a key part of your research as well. The time between when your child is born and when you discover his or her disability should be enough time to pick a health insurance provider. Take the time to re-hash what is already covered by your insurance so you can then decide whether a secondary insurance is necessary. Pretty much all insurance plans pick up from the moment of birth, so treatments should start being covered immediately. Look for specific state-run programs that can assist with out-of-pocket costs for things like heart problems. Make sure you know what treatments your child will need, before he or she is born. This includes meeting doctors, touring hospitals, and learning about alternative methods and treatments.

Wrap Up

Advances in healthcare have led to breakthroughs that allow children with disabilities to live full and happy lives. It is important to recognize the unique challenges you and your child will face together, but not to let them overwhelm you. With the right support, you can still focus on being a mother first. Nothing will replace the love you give your child, even if he or she is born with a disability.

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