Parents with Children with Disabilities

By: Tamara Higgins

Being new to Calgary, and a Social Worker with 11 years experience in Developmental Services, I could not help but notice the differences in services offered in this city for parents who have a child with a disability.  The province I came from offered numerous services, as does Calgary, but I quickly noticed numerous loop holes and gaps in services when for the first time in my career, I worked in children’s services.

The first real gap that I noticed was the availability of services which allowed a parent to remain working.  Many of the services offered (including physiotherapy, speech therapy, behavioural therapy, occupational therapy, etc) required a huge time commitment on the parents part.  Now please do not misunderstand here, I truly believe that parents need to play a huge role in the development of their children, disability or not, but in today’s world many families also require a dual income home to support and sustain themselves.  Many of the families that I worked with expressed major concerns with the fact that they recognize their children needed these services, but found they had to give up a job in order to commit to the hours that services were available to them.

Now, for those parent who will read this whom do not have a child with a disability, think of this, when you drop your child off at day care in the morning, you carry on with your work day.  Day care maybe costly and sometimes difficult to find, but now imagine you have a child who requires more attention and more support then a “typical” child.  The first issue here when I look at this is our regular everyday child care providers (not trained to provide services to a child with a disability) is charging a parent more to provide care for their child with a disability.  I have seen ads posted on kijiji, Craigslist, etc of people whom state they will provide care for a child with a disability as well.  I have looked into some of these ads, stating to be the parent of a child with a disability, only to find out they would charge me upwards of $100 more a month to provide care for this child.

Any parent who has their child in day care knows this is a difficult decision to make to begin with.  We never want to leave our child in someone else’s care and trust that they will be ok.  We worry they may not be understood when trying to communicate, they may not get the attention they need, they may not be changed regularly, or fed enough or drink enough.  Now what if you have a child with autism.  Wouldn’t you think that your concern for your child’s welfare be a bit more worrisome leaving them in someone else’s care? Also knowing you maybe paying more than any other parent to have your child cared for and the person providing the service is no more qualified to do so.

Many of these children and parents living with these disabilities have to make the choice to not only find care for their child while at work, if that is even an option, but they also seek other services to help their children flourish the way they should be able to.  This take a huge commitment on the part of the parents and often finds them met with even more worries and hurdles as they face having to quit their jobs to attend to the needs of their child and ensure they can receive these services.

I write this article today simply to open people’s minds to the world of parents who have children with a disability.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of the funds that come into this province were used to not only provide these services for parents and children, but also geared to serve multiple needs? On this topic I would write forever about where all if the obvious issues lie, but the reality is it will take communities and numbers of people to fully understand the struggles of a parent who has a child with a disability, and the sacrifices that must be made by these families in order to provide a quality of life for their child.  It would be a perfect world if we could all achieve socialization, education, independence, and all of those wonderful things for all of our children.  Most families don’t need to quit their jobs, or change their lives to obtain child care, or send their child to school.  For a parent of a child with a disability, obtaining services for your child to succeed can sometimes mean complete sacrifice of employment, social life, schedule, and anything and everything in between.

I welcome anyone who reads this living in the Alberta area to contact me if they have any interest in brain storming and collaborating on making the services here in our province more available and attainable for families.  If you are a family who has a child with a disability and obtaining services has been difficult for you, I welcome your feedback on your challenges and ideas for change.  If you know someone affected by similar situations, I also welcome your feedback.

~A single person can not change the world… But when people band together, amazing things can happen~


Contact info: