Parent/Child Programs Need to Be Accessible to Parents With Disabilities

By Kris McElroy: For Complete Post, click here…

I was excited as a new dad to enroll my daughter in the early toddler parent/child classes for the fall. I had experience with her newfound toddler activity level; had my anxiety, communication, and sensory overload strategies; and my plan to manage my fatigue, energy, and physical adaptations. In my head, it worked. My daughter is social, a climber, jumper, and at that time was starting to run. So, my partner and I thought the class would be a great fit especially since the description had running, balls, parachute, and music in it. My excitement was through the roof. Then in the middle of the first class, my heart sank.

As much as I thought I was prepared, I found there were activities in the class that my daughter could do but I physically could not engage in due to my physical disability and the way the activity was designed. During those moments in the class, my partner tapped in, and I watched from the sidelines. I felt defeated, excluded, and incapable as a new dad. Yet, at the same time, I felt ecstatic, proud, and joyous as I watched my daughter fully engage and have fun during the program.

After the first class, the experiences brought up the question of how we advocate for accommodations as a parent in a parent/child class for children without disabilities. Even though we had many conversations about many different topics, especially parenting and raising a child in a family with multiple dynamics of difference and disability before and after our daughter was born and we brought her home, it didn’t necessarily translate to real-time experiences such as this one. The program has a section offered to children with disabilities that provides more adaptations, but our daughter isn’t eligible for that. The paperwork required before the class all pertained to my daughter, so all the accessibility/accommodation questions regarding physical, emotional, psychological disability did not pertain to her for this class. However, they pertained to me as her parent. But there was no guidance for that. So, we naively went into the class with the assumption that I would just adapt on the spot as I do with a lot of things in our lives. But this was my first time in a parent/child class as a parent with a disability of a child without a disability and my strategies didn’t transfer as they do in other settings.

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