June 2018

When my daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy in the spring of 2006, we lived in a three-level town house.  As you would expect, the town house had three flights of stairs.  Each stair (and there were many!) was deep and tall which made going up and down the stairs particularly challenging for my little girl. To help her cope on the way up, I taught my daughter to hold on to the rail and climb up one step at a time and when her two feet were on the same step, she would then attempt to climb the next step and so on.  For the way down, I taught my daughter to slide down the stairs, on her tummy, while lying face down.  I figured that these two methods where the safest for her.  

Soon thereafter though, my husband and I started talking about moving to a more suitable or accommodating home.  I thought the best style of home was a rambler or ranch house where all the living and sleeping space are on one level.  Those kinds of homes tend to be older and hard to come by.  We started our search in 2009 and did not find our new home until 2012! The end result though is a house that is much more accommodating to my daughter’s special needs and one that we all love living in.

It may not be possible for every family with a special needs child to buy a more accommodating house. In those situations, it may be possible to modify the house to suit the special needs of the child instead.  Refer to this article for ideas on home accommodations that may include:

  • Install an exterior ramp to the front door
  • Convert a less used space on the main level to a bedroom 
  • Convert a hall bath into a full bath
  • Install a stair lift
  • Install grab rails in bathrooms
  • Convert cabinets to include pull-out shelving
  • Convert door knobs to handles

One family had this approach to their home modifications. The family decided that their son “needs his space and the ability to negotiate it on his own terms.” Isn’t that wonderful?

If you are considering modifying your home, it would be best to consult with an architect who specializes in this field – there are some!  The State of Virginia regulates and licenses all architects and contractors, so it would be a good idea to check-out the credentials of the architect or the architectural firm you decide to hire. You can check their licensing information here. I also found a wonderful resource on home modifications for people with disabilities from Fairfax County.  The site offers grant information as well which can prove to be very helpful should the modifications be extensive. 

Whether you decide to move to a new home or modify your existing one, you probably didn’t think about naming your home, but this 6-year-old decided to call her new house a “sponge house” – you can read more about that here.  So, what will your sponge house look like?

sponge house image.jpg