Many children grow up in homes where one or both of their parents have a permanent or temporary physical disability, or a learning disability.
Being a disabled parent is in many ways no different from being an able-bodied parent. You have the same parental responsibilities, i.e. to protect and keep your child safe, to provide it with a home and to ensure it is supported financially. You must name your child and make decisions about its education and medical treatment.
Whether you were a disabled parent from the start, have become disabled or have a disability that has worsened, it needn’t affect your ability to be a good parent and a great role model. Many disabled parents bring up their children without ever needing outside support.
Depending on the nature of your disability, certain everyday tasks may require extra time or require a level of creativity. If you are a new parent, you will soon find ways to adapt as you and your baby get to know each other.
Parenting does not take place in isolation, and if there are some things you are unable to do, there will probably be friends and family who will happily help out if you ask them. If you really don’t need help, it’s fine to say that too.
It is only when someone’s disability prevents them from meeting their child’s physical and emotional needs or keeping them safe that the family may need assistance from health and social care professionals.
Changing support needs
The nature of looking after a growing child means life is constantly changing. If you have care needs which are being met in the community – or you use direct payments – you may find the arrangements that were in place before you had children do not fit in with your new responsibilities and priorities. This may also be the case with growing children.
Have your needs assessed at regular intervals. The assessment process focuses on what is important to you, including what you are capable of doing as well as the things you need help with.
Children of disabled parents
Children are remarkably resilient and adaptable; however, having a disabled parent makes them different to most other children. While most children will be fine, just be on the lookout for signs that your child is being bullied or has been a victim of disability hate crime.
It’s also important to make sure your child’s developmental, educational and social needs are met.
Children and young people have their own rights, including the right to be involved in decisions that affect them.
The law believes children are best cared for within their own families and you will be supported in your role as a parent.
As a disabled parent, you may be eligible for a grant.
If your disability is permanent, or worsens, you may find yourself needing support from your child or children, perhaps help with getting up in the morning, making meals or with household chores you cannot do.
You may rely on your child or children to help with parenting their younger siblings or turn to them to provide emotional support.
Young carers are usually happy to help their parents in this way; however, be careful their caring role does not take over their life and that they still have time for studying, interests and socialising with friends.
Children’s charities like Barnardo’s Cymru, Action for Children and Credu Cymru support young carers in some areas.
Always make sure your child knows what to do in an emergency.
Your local Family Information Service is there to help all parents.
The charity Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood offers practical advice and peer support for disabled parents.
Netmums has a forum for disabled parents and parents-to-be.
Change People publishes books for people with learning disabilities, including about pregnancy, parenting, looking after a baby and bringing up a small child.
Childline supports young carers. Tel: 0800 1111.