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Creating Home Where Your Child Can Thrive with A Disability | HomeCity

Creating a Home Where
Your Child Can Thrive
with a Disability
When your child is disabled, whether because of the way they were born or after an accident
or injury, you instantly turn from simply a parent to an advocate. It's your job to give your child
the best possible start in life, embracing the different abilities so your child can thrive.
However, sometimes this is difficult to do in a traditional home layout. If your child, for
example, is in a wheelchair, and you have narrow hallways, then getting around your home
may be difficult, if not impossible. Home modifications can help you make your home into a
place where your child is safe, comfortable and thriving. At HomeCity
(http://www.homecity.com/), we want to help you with the process of modifying your home.
Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
Modifications for Kids in Wheelchairs
When your child is in a wheelchair, your home becomes a difficult world to navigate. Your
goal, as a parent, is to create a safe haven where your child's differences are not highlighted
every time he tries to navigate the area. Here are some ways you can improve your home to
make it more wheelchair-friendly, so you can truly provide a place where your child can feel
"at home."
Modifications in the Entrance
You need to ensure your child can get into your home without hassle. To accommodate, the
ADA (http://www.accesshomeamerica.com/consumers_modification.asp) recommends:
Modifying at least one entrance with no steps and a low or 7at threshold.
A minimum of a <ve-foot-square maneuvering space at the entrance.
A wheelchair ramp or gently sloping path leading to the home.
Handrails to make it easier to navigate the entrance.
Excellent lighting, and consider adding motion sensors to ensure it is always lit.
Modifications in the Bathroom
The bathroom (http://www.infinitec.org/bathroom-modifications) can be very difficult to
navigate, because they are rarely made large enough to move around with a wheelchair. In
addition, your child is going to need to get out of the chair and into the tub from time to time.
Consider these modifications:
Install grab bars near the shower, tub and toilet.
Choose a roll-in or walk-in shower option to ensure your child can get into the shower.
Install safe, non-slick seating in the shower or bath.
Lower the shower controls so the child can reach.
Ensure ample space around the toilet for toileting needs. Speci<cally, ensure that the
toilet area is 48 by 56 inches with at least 18 inches from the side wall.
Modifications in the Kitchen
Your child isn't going to need to cook, but that doesn't mean that wheelchair-friendly
features aren't needed in the kitchen. Consider these changes:
Have at least one wheelchair-height counter for baking and other kitchen activities.
Consider adjustable counters that pull out for your child, providing knee space
Create a 60-inch turning circle in the kitchen.
Other Interior Solutions
In addition to the entry, kitchen and bath, consider these solutions throughout your home.
Doorways with 32 inches of clearance
Hallways with 42-inches of clearance
Bedroom on the main 7oor of the home
Low-pile carpeting or hard 7ooring
No area rugs
Modifications for Kids with Visual Impairments
When you can't see, navigating a home is an overwhelming task. If your child has a severe
vision impairment (http://www.visionaware.org/info/everyday-living/home-modification/12), you need to make your home a safe place for her to thrive. Here are some tasks you can
tackle, room-by-room, to make your home safer.
Use a non-skid rug.
Use non-spilling pump dispensers for liquid bath products.
Install a grab bar.
Add additional lighting.
Use towels and rugs that contrast strongly with the wall or 7oor color.
Limit obstructions in the main traWc path by arranging furniture well.
Keep electrical cords out of the path.
Keep belongings organized so the child can <nd them by feel.
Create a space where safe snacks are readily available.
Keep dangerous things out of reach so your child doesn't accidentally grab them.
Use tactile markings on water and ice controls so your child can get a drink.
Living Areas
Keep all paths clear to prevent trip and fall hazards.
Remove all low-lying objects, like coffee tables and footstools, that your child could trip
Keep electrical cords out of all walkways.
Avoid area rugs, but use nonskid padding when you must have them.
Make sure you have three-foot wide clear paths around all rooms.
Insist that things are put away when not in use, so your child can <nd things that they
Use textures whenever possible so the blind child can <nd what she needs.
Remember, the goal is to create a home where your child can find what she needs and can
navigate without tripping. Check out the American Foundation for the Blind
(http://www.afb.org/default.aspx) for more advice about modifications for children living with
blindness. For children with visual disabilities, you will need the entire family to get on board
with the necessary changes!
Modifications for Kids with Sensory Concerns
When you have a child with intense sensory needs, you may need to modify your home to
make it a "safe" place for the child. Sometimes, even the normal activity of your home is too
much for a child with a sensory issue (http://www.sensory-processingdisorder.com/environmental-modifications.html). Consider these changes made throughout
your home:
Install dim lighting, or use natural when possible.
Avoid bright, bold colors on walls and 7oors.
Reduce visual distractions in the home by eliminating clutter and unnecessary decor.
Invest in organizational structures to ensure your child's toys and belongings are
organized and stored well.
Avoid using items with strong odors.
Use weighted blankets in the bedroom for better sleep.
Create a Sensory Corner
Children who get overloaded easily can benefit from having a quiet, sensory corner. The
sensory corner should include:
Blankets and pillows for nesting
Quiet imaginative toys
Tape player with headphones
Squishy seating, like beanbag chairs or pillows.
Provide for Sensory Input
Many parents think of sensory avoidance when they think of sensory issue, but a number of
children with sensory issues actually crave sensory input, rather than trying to avoid it. If you
have a sensory seeking child, your home can quickly become damaged as the child rams into
walls or rubs against the carpeting. Avoid these problems by providing a safe place for
sensory experiences (http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/meeting-sensory-needs-on-abudget/). Whether a room, playroom or basement, consider adding:
A small trampoline for jumping movements
Safe, padded spaces for crashing into
Noisy toys.
Rocking toys.
Seats that wiggle and bounce.
Remember, the goal is to create a home or a space within your home that meets your child's
specific sensory needs. Take the time to figure out exactly what those needs are, then you will
Modifications for Autistic Children
Children with autism require a special home environment (http://www.autismprograms.com/articles-on-autism/optimum-home-environment-for-children-withautism.htm) to remain calm and less agitated. However, because many autistic children do
not communicate well, understanding their needs is not always easy. Here are some changes
that can help children with autism feel safe and comfortable at home.
Pay Attention to Sounds - Children with autism are more attune to sounds that others
may not even notice. TraWc, wind whistling through a window and even music in the
background or the sound of the dishwasher running. Whenever possible, avoid those
sounds that agitate the child. When not possible to avoid a sound, provide headphones to
help cancel the noise.
Reduce Visual Stimulation - Another way children with autism can become overwhelmed
is through visual stimulation, so reduce the amount of clutter in the home. A very busy
environment is diWcult for the autistic child, so keep wall decor and other clutter in the
home at a minimum.
Change the Lighting - Fluorescent lighting pulsates, and this can tire a child with autism
quickly. Consider investing in lights with high-speed ballasts if you must use 7uorescent
lighting, or choose incandescent lighting when possible. Some children seem to do <ne with
CFL bulbs when traditional 7uorescent lighting does not work.
Give Attention to Color - Some autistic children are drawn to a speci<c color, while being
repelled by another. If you notice that your child has an aversion to a particular color, try to
avoid it in your home. Use favorite colors in the areas where you want your child to feel safe
and comfortable.
Remove Temptations - When you have a child with autism, you are going to need to learn
to limit the times you have to tell your child "no." Over time, your autistic child is going to
become immune to your "no" reaction. So, when it comes to valuables and dangerous items,
rather than trying to keep our child away from them, control access by packing them away
or putting them in high cabinets. Keep those things that are easily accessible to items that
it's safe for your child to explore.
Build a Playroom - Therapies are important to a child with autism, so consider building a
playroom to do your work with your child. The goal of this room is to create an environment
where it's easy for your child to focus on you and the activities you are introducing.
Because the playroom is such an important part of your home when you have a child with
autism, it may require some home modifications. If you are building a new playroom, keep
these considerations in mind:
Create an area about three meters by three meters at a minimum. Keep in mind that a
large room can distract your child from the focus you want.
Remove as many visible distractions as possible. Toys even should be up and out of sight
so your child can focus on only those activities you are introducing.
Have a table and chair that can adjust to your child's changing height.
Cover windows with a covering that allows light through but does not allow visual stimuli
through. Make sure non-natural light is light your autistic child is comfortable with.
Consider building the playroom close to a bathroom, or adding a bathroom.
Consider a padded 7oor for your child's safety and your comfort, as many activities will
be done on the 7oor.
If you will be using a therapist in your home, consider a one-way mirror or closed circuit
television to allow you monitor what your child and the therapist are doing.
How to Adapt a Home to Medical Equipment
If your child's physical needs mean you have a bit of medical equipment, you are going to
need to make a few adaptations. Here are some things to consider:
Create safe storage for medical supplies. Store your medical supplies and equipment
where it is readily accessible, but not necessarily in the middle of your day-to-day life.
Consider adding power - If your child's medical equipment is powered, consider adding
outlets or other power options to ensure you always have a convenient way to utilize your
child's medical gear.
Purchase equipment in order of priority - Depending on your child's struggles, you may
need a number of pieces of equipment. Start with those that are the most important, such
as those that are life-sustaining or that give your child mobility. Then add the other pieces
as your home's layout and your family's budget allow.
Give attention to stairs - If your home has stairs and your child is mobility challenged,
consider installing a lift system to give your child access to the top 7oors of the home.
However, make sure the home is modi<ed so that all medical equipment is accessible on all
Install a generator - Would your child's medical needs be met in a power outage? Consider
a backup generator to ensure you have power no matter what the weather brings, so your
child's life-sustaining equipment is always usable.
How to Modify a Home While Staying in Budget
When you start considering modifications for your home, you can quickly see the dollar signs
adding up. None of these changes are cheap. While you don't want to spare any expose for
your child's safety, comfort and overall well-being, the reality is you also need to feed and
clothe your family, pay the mortgage and keep up with your other responsibilities. Here are
some ways to do your modifications while staying on a budget.
Prioritize - Some modi<cations are immediate needs, while others would be nice, but
could wait. Prioritize so you know what needs to happen <rst.
Consider a loan - If you own your home, you may be able to use its equity to make these
modi<cations. Talk to your bank about lending options after receiving the cost estimate
from your chosen contractor.
DIY when you can - Sometimes it's cheaper to DIY a project, so consider doing so when
you can, but never at the sacri<ce of the security of your child or the sanity of your family.
Purchase equipment second hand - Some adaptive equipment can be purchased secondhand from a child who has outgrown it. This can help you save money ,but always talk to
your child's doctor or therapist about whether or not the type of equipment you need is safe
to purchase second-hand. Common items include mobility equipment, therapy toys and
adaptive furniture. Medical equipment that needs to be sanitary may not be a good choice
to purchase second-hand.
Where to Get Financial Help
Modifying your home for a differently-abled child is costly, but you will find some financial
help to get you through this process. If the bills are starting to add up, or you want to get
financial help so you can focus your family's resources on other things, consider looking for
help from these organizations:
National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modi<cation
(http://gero.usc.edu/nrcshhm/) - This organization focuses on the needs of the aging
population primarily, but they may be able to point you in the right direction to get help with
the home modi<cation you require for your child.
Rebuilding Together (http://togetherwetransform.org/) - This nonpro<t organization
provides home modi<cation for people with disabilities and low income families.
Easter Seals (http://www.easterseals.com/) - Contact your local Easter Seals chapter for
more information about <nancing options and loans to pay for home modi<cations.
Access Loans - Many banks offer access loans that are designed for families to make
building modi<cations and purchase devices they need to assist a family member with a
HandiRamp Foundation (http://handirampfoundation.org/) - This nonpro<t helps families
raise money for modi<cations they need.
House Financing Agencies (https://www.ncsha.org/housing-help) - Your local house
<nancing agency may have a program for families with a member living with a disability and
in need of funding for home modi<cations. These programs vary based on the budget and
regulations of the local HFA.
Center for Independent Living (http://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-andassociation-directory) - Check to see if your area has a local Center for Independent Living,
which will help create an independent living environment for someone living with a disability
through <nancial aid and other programs.
When Does It Make Sense to Move Instead of Modify
Modifying an existing home to accommodate a child with a disability is not easy. Sometimes,
the cost of the modifications is astronomical, and it makes more sense to move instead of
modify. Here are some situations where moving is a more appropriate choice.
When the costs to modify the home far exceed its worth.
When serious modi<cations are necessary, such as widening the hallways or doorways,
moving to a home that already has wider areas makes more sense.
When living in a two-story home would mean your child could not access the second 7oor
of the home.
When the bathroom is not large enough to accommodate the necessary modi<cations.
When the necessary modi<cations are simply not possible with the 7oor plan or layout of
the home.
When the home is in a noisy area and your child is dealing with sensory concerns or
In these instances, you may not be able to modify the home, so you may need to start
shopping for a new home that is either already modified or is easily modified to meet your
child's needs. If you are facing this reality, HomeCity is a great place to start your search for a
new home. Let us help you find a home that will accommodate your child's needs more
Resources for Special-Needs Parents in Texas
In Texas, a number of resources are available to help parents and kids who are dealing with
special needs. Some of the state-wide resources include:
Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program
(http://www.dshs.texas.gov/cshcn/) - From the Department of State Health Services
Children's Medicaid (https://chipmedicaid.org/) - Insurance help for low-income families.
Early Childhood Intervention Services (https://hhs.texas.gov/services/disability/earlychildhood-intervention-services) - Provides early childhood intervention for children with
disabilities and developmental delays throughout the state.
Navigate Life Texas (https://www.navigatelifetexas.org/en/family-support/modifyinghomes-for-children-with-disabilities) - Provides advice about home modi<cations for special
needs kids.
Dallas Area (http://www.homecity.com/dallas/dallas) Resources for Special-Needs
When it comes to raising a child with special needs, it really does take a village. In Dallas,
special needs parents will find a number of resources available to them to help with
everything from medical care to home modifications. Here are some of them.
Our Children's House (https://www.childrens.com/specialties-services/och) - 877-8209061 - Provides coordinated services for children with special health care needs.
Early Childhood Intervention Services (https://hhs.texas.gov/services/disability/earlychildhood-intervention-services) - Provides early childhood intervention for children with
disabilities and developmental delays throughout the state.
Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority (http://www.dallasauthorityidd.org/) - 214-333-70000 - The entry-point for services for those with intellectual and
developmental disabilities in Dallas.
Dallas Fort Worth North Texas Child (http://www.dfwchild.com/special-needs.asp) - An
online resource for Dallas parents, with a special needs section.
Easter Seals of North Texas (http://www.easterseals.com/northtexas/) - 888-617-7171 -
Help for families with children living with autism, including a preschool in Grapevine, TX.
Resources for Austin-Area (http://www.homecity.com/austin) Special-Needs Parents
For parents of special-needs and differently-abled children in Austin, a number of local
groups and organizations can provide help, support and advice.
Caregiver Support Group for Parents and Family Members of Children with Complex
Chronic Conditions (http://dellchildrens.net/CChIPAG) - 512-324-9999 x86690 - Host regular
meetings to give parents a place to discuss life and <nd support for dealing with children
with complex chronic conditions.
Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas (http://www.dsact.com/) - 512-323-0808 -
Help and sport for parents of Down syndrome children.
Special Needs Neighborhood (http://www.specialneedsneighborhood.com/) - An online
forum to connect mothers of special needs children in the Austin area.
Variety - The Children's' Charity of Texas (http://www.varietytexas.org/) - 512-328-5437 -
Provides funding for adaptive devices and home modi<cations, therapy and other items
that bene<t children with special needs in Texas, based out of Austin.
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Last updated August 19 at 10:52 pm.