By: Michael Rock
Being a parent is a challenging job. For parents with disabilities, it can be even more daunting. According to the latest research, the United States is home to anywhere between 2.9 million and 4.1 million parents with disabilities. Many such parents say the unique struggles they face raising their children are primarily a product of a society that assumes they are inherently unable to do so. Whether it’s Walt Disney World banning children from riding in the laps of their parents who use electric scooters to challenges with communicating with school authorities to rash judgements from other parents, parents with disabilities experience many obstacles others do not.
Fortunately, there are efforts to better help people with disabilities to be the best parents they can be. Eliza Hull, who has Charcot Marie Tooth, created the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s series, We’ve Got This: Parenting with a Disability, to showcase actual parents with disabilities with the aim of breaking down common stereotypes and misconceptions about them.
This past June, Seattle was home to a six-panelist discussion called “Parenting without Pity.” All of the panelists were parents with disabilities, and they discussed how they can better help their children and develop relationships with parents who do not have disabilities.
In the United States, there have been greater efforts at the state and national levels to better support them. The Rhode Island State Senate passed a bill that made it illegal to use disability alone as a basis to deny someone parenting rights.
Meanwhile, in March, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, which allows for special provisions to better allow parents with disabilities raise their children with greater ease, these can include funding continuing education classes to help child care providers better understand those with disabilities, adaptive parenting classes, and greater availability and affordability of parenting equipment.
There is evidence that parents with disabilities can do a better job raising children with similar or identical disabilities in some ways than parents without disabilities at all. Their own experiences may allow them to have an easier time empathizing with and understanding the struggles of such children in at least some situations.
With greater understanding and more legal supports for parents with disabilities, they should be able to raise their children just as well as parents without them.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.