The day your child becomes mobile, he or she is off to explore the world and ready to get their hands into everything they see. And while all parents must learn to adapt to their child’s budding independence, toddlerhood presents unique challenges to parents with physical, visual, and auditory impairments. Here are a few ideas on how to shape your approach to parenting based on common disabilities.
The National Federation for the Blind has published an entire online booklet about alternate parenting techniques for the visually impaired. Specific to toddlers, the group’s panel of blind parents report that being more hands-on is the key. While many sighted parents can simply watch their child from afar, a blind mother or father must remain within arm’s reach when outside the safety of their home. And at home, bells attached to the child’s clothing are an invaluable addition to the visually-impaired parent’s arsenal of tools.
Whether you are in a wheelchair, are missing limbs, or have other mobility issues, you can still effectively parent your children from birth on by modifying your home to meet your family’s needs. You might, for instance, perform diaper changes from an area you can reach from a seated position. The Australian Parenting Website reports that there are many rewards of parenting, regardless of your physical abilities. Disabled parents often raise children who are more caring and empathetic, compassionate and tolerant, and appreciative of their own health. Only you can determine which modifications are best suited to accommodate your situation and your child’s emerging personality.
If you have a hearing impairment, having an infant meant lots of hands-on time with your baby. But when your child reaches the stage where they want to move around, there is a whole new set of issues you’ll have to learn to manage. The most important thing you can do for your child is to teach them sign language early on. Children’s hands develop faster than their ability to speak, so teaching ASL – American Sign Language – isn’t as difficult as many people believe. Around the age of nine months, you can introduce your little one to high-impact signs, such as those that relay hunger, thirst, or fear. Just like teaching spoken language, it takes time but your child will eventually catch on and you’ll enjoy open and reciprocal communication.
Like all parents, you’ll struggle as your child grows older and gains a sense of independence. And you’ll make mistakes. We all do. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to take a few moments each day to focus on you. Your emotional wellness – specifically how you react to and cope with stress – plays an important role in your child’s development. Here are a few self-care tips to help you remain in control and be your best self for you and your children:
- Take a long bath each night
- Wake up 20 minutes early and enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea in silence
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal substances
- Ask for help and take respite from your daily obligations at least once a month
- Talk to other parents of all abilities about their own struggles
More than anything, remember that your child will grow up with his or her own life experiences and that those experiences are shaped by you. All children have a unique home life and your disability, whatever it may be, will simply be a part of your child’s personal story. You will find a way to compensate for any shortcoming and your family will thrive just like any other.