If it is indeed a widely accepted truth that it takes an entire village to raise a child, then it can be said that it takes an entire nation to raise a child with disabilities. The support and collaboration needed to provide the best care and opportunities for children with disabilities extend far beyond the immediate community. It requires a collective effort from all levels of society to create an inclusive and accessible environment that empowers these children to thrive.
In an inclusive nation, every individual recognizes their responsibility towards the well-being and development of children with disabilities. From policymakers shaping legislation that ensures equal rights and opportunities for all, to educators implementing inclusive practices in schools, to employers offering accommodations and job opportunities, every sector of society plays a vital role.
One of the key aspects of raising a child with disabilities at a national level is the availability of comprehensive healthcare services. Accessible and affordable healthcare is essential in providing early intervention, specialized treatments, and ongoing support for children with disabilities. This requires a well-funded healthcare system that prioritizes the needs of these children and ensures that they have access to the best medical professionals, therapies, and assistive devices.
Furthermore, an inclusive nation focuses on creating an education system that meets the diverse needs of every child, regardless of their abilities. It involves providing appropriate accommodations, specialized instruction, and inclusive classrooms that foster a sense of belonging and enable children with disabilities to reach their full potential. This requires well-trained teachers, adequate resources, and a commitment to inclusive education at all levels.
Since the early 2000s, there has been a decrease in fully qualified special education teachers while the number of students with disabilities has continued to grow. According to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, more than 60% of students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their day in general classes as product of special education teachers customizing curriculum to increase accessibility. However, there is currently 45% vacancies in special education positions nationally and 78% of schools have reported difficulty in hiring special education staff.
Beyond education and healthcare, an inclusive nation also addresses the financial challenges faced by families raising children with disabilities. It recognizes the additional expenses involved in providing necessary support and accommodations. Whether it's a household with two parents or a single parent household, the financial impact of raising a child with disabilities is something we all experience. It often means finding nontraditional jobs or flexible careers that can accommodate the frequent appointments or sudden absences that come with caring for our children. While estimates suggest that it costs somewhere between the high 200ks to low 300ks to raise a child, for parents of children with disabilities, that estimate skyrockets to 2 million dollars. When you consider the expenses of insurance, copays, hospital stays, specialists, medication costs, adaptive equipment, changes to your home, travel costs to appointments, etc. it becomes clear why the financial burden is so significant.
We can address the financial challenges through financial assistance programs, tax benefits, and employer incentives that alleviate the financial burden on families. It also involves creating employment opportunities and promoting workplace inclusivity, allowing parents of children with disabilities to balance their caregiving responsibilities with meaningful employment.
Ultimately, the journey of raising a child with disabilities requires a collaborative effort from society as a whole. It necessitates a shift in mindset, where individuals, institutions, and communities come together to create a supportive and inclusive environment. By working together, we can ensure that every child, regardless of their abilities, has equal opportunities to thrive, succeed, and contribute to the nation.