Modifying your home and life for a child with special needs

By taking the time to face common issues head on, you will put yourself and your family in a better position to cope with whatever may come. (Photo:

Perhaps you’ve been told that the baby in your womb will be born with a physical disability. You may be considering adding to your family by adopting a special needs teenager. Whatever your reasons, when you need to prepare for a child with physical or mental needs, the sooner, the better. Here are a few things to consider throughout the process.

Accessibility modifications run the gamut from simple added lighting to complete interior redesigns. Structural modifications might mean a wheelchair ramp, widened doorways, or a raised bathing platform. Other home enhancements include installing a lower toilet, accessible handles throughout the home, and a lift for the tub. Children on the autism spectrum may benefit from added sound protection and a room specifically designed to limit sensory input. offers more sound advice on establishing a comfortable home environment for children with disabilities.

Home modifications can be a large expense, however, and must be carefully considered before making drastic changes to your house. There are financial assistance options available although each has different eligibility requirements. HomeAdvisor provides information on home modification grants as well as a list of other resources for disabled children and their families.

Insurance and Extras

One of the biggest questions parents have upon finding out their child will have a disability is whether they will be covered by health insurance. As of 2014, healthcare coverage can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions and all children have access to insurance via the private-sector or through Medicaid, depending on family income. You can read more about health insurance for special needs children in this PDF provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Life insurance is another concern. The Special Needs Alliance explains that purchasing life insurance for your child may help replace retirement savings if you were forced to forgo gainful employment to care for your child.


Depending on the severity of your child’s disability, he or she may not be eligible to attend your zoned public school. Your local school board can give you more information on the most appropriate public option available. If you’re considering private school, understand that private learning institutions are not subject to the same regulations as public schools and are free to interpret “needs” according to their own standards. The vast majority of public school systems are well equipped to handle common disabilities, such as ADHD, autism, severe allergies, and dyslexia. Special classrooms may also be available for children with more in-depth issues, such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or extreme brain damage.


Although your priority is your child, self-care remains important, even for parents with special needs kids. This doesn’t mean skipping out on his or her care for a massage, but taking care of your innate physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of self-care, as rest is fundamental to your overall health and well-being. You’ll also need to pay attention to how you eat and the amount of physical activity you receive each day. There are times when caring for your child will become overwhelming. For this reason, establishing a strong support system is also important.

No one ever expects to have a child who can’t run, jump, laugh, and play like everyone else. Whether it comes as a complete surprise or you make a conscious decision to adopt a special needs child, it can be emotionally taxing. Fears about your child’s future will always be at the forefront of your mind. By taking the time to face common issues head on, you will put yourself and your family in a better position to cope with whatever may come.

Text: Sara Bell, - 07/2018