Planning the Future for Children with Disabilities
Guest Article by Charlotte Meier
When you have a child with a disability, it’s important to plan ahead for her future, particularly if she is going to need assistance caring for herself as an adult. There are many things you can do now, as she is growing, that will be beneficial for her later in life.
Plan for Your Child’s Adulthood Early On
Start as soon as you can; it’s never too early. As a parent of a child with a disability you need to be coming up with ideas for the future, even though you may not foresee a time when your child can live without your support. Most children outlive their parents, so it’s important that you make provisions for a time when you will not be there to care for your child. It helps to generate an image of the adult she will become, then you can begin to process the type of support she will need. Consider the community where she will live. What type of accommodation will she need? Who will her closest friends be? What kind of support group will she have? Share these ideas with your family and friends and they will help you build a clearer picture.
Learn From Adults With Disabilities
It may be difficult for you to imagine what it will be like for your child to live with her disability as an adult. To help you understand, you should get to know adults with the same or similar disability. Talk to them about their lifestyle and the level of support they need. You can also attend support groups and workshops where you can meet parents with older disabled children.
Research the Support Options in Your Community
It’s vital that you become familiar with the support options in your community for adults with disabilities. Look into groups and organizations that are involved with work programs, assisted living and recreational programs. There are many good resources online, such as the Center for Parent Information and Resources and Special Needs Resources.
Become an Advocate Within Your Community
Reach out to other families in your area through local parent support groups. Contact service providers and let them know about your child’s needs so that services will be readily available as and when she needs them. Find out how you can advocate for services that are not yet in place. Sign up for local organization’s newsletters, so you can keep abreast of the latest changes.
Help Your Child Connect
Build a foundation in your community for your child’s future. Help her to connect with local people, both disabled and non-disabled. The more people you child knows now, the stronger her network will be when she is an adult. Help your child make friends with non-disabled children in your area by arranging for them to do activities together, such as watching movies, baking cookies, or playing video games.
If you have a young child, it may, at this time, be hard to realize the importance of looking ahead to her adult future. But the sooner you begin to imagine how it’s going to be, the more prepared you will be and the easier it will be for you to help your child develop a strong foundation for independence. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by creating a life plan for a child with a disability. Start now and build on it gradually, and when the time comes, it will be easier for you to help your child make the transition to adulthood.