Mothers with Disabilities
Physical limitations are no limitations to loving and nurturing a child
“The major message I would like to give parents is that the issues we deal with as disabled mothers are amazingly similar to the issues that they deal with. We may do things slightly differently, but we still get the job done,” Day says. “It is empowering to know that having a child is not that different from everything I have already accomplished.”
Another inspiration is Judi Rogers, an activist, author, staff member at TLG, and the recipient of the 2002 Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Program award—the nation’s highest honor for community health leadership.
Rogers was born with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. When she became a parent in the 1970s, the scarcity of resources available on the subject of pregnancy and parenting with a disability motivated her to write what became a ground-breaking book: Mother-To-Be: A Guide to Pregnancy and Birth for Women With Disabilities. While the title is no longer in print, used copies are available. A second edition, The Disabled Woman’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth was released in 2004.
Words of Wisdom
Rogers says that other mothers who live with disabilities experience many of the same issues she faced during her early years as a parent caring for a young child. Specifically, parents with physical disabilities often need intervention in three areas as they begin caring for infants—moving, lifting, and positional change—in order to accomplish such tasks as burping and feeding, she explains. “I was able to solve them with technique and being trained as an occupational therapist. The techniques I learned became the way I survived,” she says.
In the course of their work with TLG, Rogers and her colleague Christi Tuleja developed equipment aides that help make it possible for mothers with disabilities to care for their infant and toddler children. Trish Day is one mother who has benefited from some of the equipment that Rogers helped develop. TLG’s equipment ideas include a slide-away crib and a special walker with a seat that can ease the task of transporting baby from room to room.
Rogers encourages people with disabilities who are thinking about becoming parents. “There are resources to help mothers with disabilities with that first two and a half years,” she says. “Equipment and special techniques allow parents to have a fuller involvement in their child’s early life.” Rogers notes that after the infant and toddler years pass, parenting becomes more of an emotional and intellectual activity with fewer physical demands.
As their children grew older, Rogers and Day both recall that they were able to help them by teaching day-to-day tasks such as brushing teeth, and preparing sandwiches. “Even though I had to ask my kids to do more, I gave them so much more in other ways. When you start working together as a team, it builds the child/mother relationship and helps kids with their own development which they happen to really enjoy,” Rogers explains. “We are enabling them to explore their development—and their development begins to flourish.”
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