Services for Parents with Disabilities

Photo: A mother sits in a wheelchair  smiling, with a small boy facing her, in her lap.  On her right side is  her husband sitting in a chair.  His left arm is over her wheelchair.   In his right arm he is holding a baby in a sort of standing position.
TLG provides direct services, information and referral to a diverse group of parents with disabilities and their families. These include parents with physical and visual disabilities, deaf parents, parents with intellectual disabilities, and parents with diverse medical conditions. TLG provides information, training and consultation to parents with disabilities, family members and professionals nationally and internationally. Direct services are also available primarily to local parents residing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

TLG provides direct services to families of infants and children within the Bay Area in which a parent, parenting grandparent and/or child has a disability, medical issue or developmental concern.

In 2012, TLG served 2007 clients, 91% living in poverty: 1236 individuals in 354 families received regular services (typically, once or twice a week) of home-based mental health services and early intervention, or daily attendance in TLG’s Early Head Start center; additionally, 771 children were served through groups/playgroups or TLG’s developmental or mental health consultation to Head Start and Early Head Start centers in Oakland. Of our 2007 clients in 2012, 42.3% were Latino/Hispanic, 33.5% African-American, 8.8% Caucasian, 6.6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.3% Native American, .5% Other, and 8% Mixed Ethnicity. 63.3% of the clients we served were from birth to 4 years old, 6% were ages 5 to 6, 7.3% were ages 7 to 12, and 3.3% were ages 13 to 17. In 131 of the 354 families both parent(s) and child(ren) had disabilities. 90% of the clients were in Alameda County, with the remainder in Contra Costa County.

The National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families
There are 4.1 million parents with disabilities in the U.S. -- 6.2% of all American parents. In 1998, TLG became the first National Resource Center on Parents with Disabilities, funded by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. In October 2008, we were awarded a three year grant by NIDRR to continue our national work with parents with disabilities and their families as the The National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families. In December 2011, we were awarded a five year grant to continue this work.  Under this new funding, we will be emphasizing several national research projects that increase the knowledge about parents with disabilities and their families as well as provide critically needed data to inform local, regional, and national policies.

The National Center continues TLG's overall mission of empowering parents and potential parents with disabilities by disseminating disability-appropriate information regarding parenting to parents, disability advocates, and legal, medical, intervention and social services providers. The Center's overall goal is to increase information and support more disability-appropriate resources for parents with disabilities and their children throughout the U.S.

In addition to Mothers and Fathers with Disabilities, our national resources are also available to other family members such as grandparents and other relatives who live in the household and are involved in nurturing and raising children in the family. Nationally, there is an especially dramatic increase in the number of number of grandparents who are primary caregivers of their grandchildren, and TLG is committed to ensuring that grandparents and other family members are recognized and included in all The Center's activities concerning parents with disabilities.

The National Center staff provide individualized consultation and training regarding a wide variety of parenting issues including custody, adoption, adaptive parenting equipment, pregnancy and birthing. Each year, we respond to several thousand requests for information. Requests for information, consultation or training can be made via toll-free telephone (voice or TTY), email, letter or FAX. In addition to conducting research and providing consultation and training, the Center's other major activities include: developing and disseminating numerous publications and training materials concerning parents with disabilities; maintaining a national clearinghouse of nearly 3,000 articles, reports, videos, curricula, and periodicals concerning parenting with a disability; and, coordinating a national network of parents with disabilities. Our National Center has also hosted two international conferences (in 1997 and 2002) on parenting with a disability. These conferences were attended by several hundred parents, advocates, professionals and family members from most U.S. states as well as several other countries including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Northern Marianas Islands, Philippines, Sudan, Sweden, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. These conferences included workshops and presentations given by internationally-recognized experts in their field and provided the opportunity for networking and in-depth dialogue among parents, researchers and practitioners.



We have conducted numerous research projects of national significance concerning families with disabilities since 1982. All our research is conducted from a non-pathological and disability community perspective. As part of The National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, we are conducting eight national research projects and seven development projects.

Previous TLG research projects have included a National Study of Parents with Disabilities and their Teenage Children, a national survey of parents with disabilities, research on adaptive babycare equipment, specific studies of deaf parents, mothers with visual disabilities, parents with developmental disabilities, pregnancy and birthing issues, access to Head Start, and federal and state policies affecting parents with disabilities. Several publications are available regarding these research studies and findings at TLG's Online Publications.

Adaptive Equipment
TLG is nationally recognized for designing and fabricating baby care equipment for parents and other caregivers with disabilities, as well as studying the impact of this equipment on parenting. Our research has shown that such equipment can have a positive impact on parent/infant interaction, in addition to reducing difficulty, pain, and fatigue. By reducing the physical demands of care-giving, the equipment can also be instrumental in preventing secondary disability complications.

Through the Looking Glass completed a three-year field-initiated project to develop an evaluation assessment tool and training for occupational therapy students and clinicians to inform their work with parents with physical disabilities. The Baby Care Assessment (BCA) for Parents with Physical Limitations or Disabilities project was funded by NIDRR, and was based on 14 years of TLG's clinical experiences and a series of previously funded NIDRR grants regarding adaptive babycare equipment. The Baby Care Assessment (BCA) for Parents with Physical Limitations or Disabilities: Occupational Therapy School Curricula is now avaliable.

Nationally, TLG provides individualized consultations concerning adaptive equipment through its National Resource Center. We have also developed several publications and training materials on adaptive babycare equipment including Adaptive Baby Care Equipment: Guidelines, Prototypes & Resources. This publication includes: guidelines for problem-solving baby care barriers; photographs and descriptions of prototypes and resources for adaptive baby care equipment; adaptive baby care techniques; adaptive baby care equipment checklist; commercial product safety commission guidelines; video and training curriculum for OTs; and local and national resources.  We recently produced 3 DVDs on parenting adaptations for parents with particular functional limitations or disabilities (parents with repetitive stress, pain and fatigue; parents who use one hand; and parents with significant physical disabilities.  All these materials are available in our online publications store.

Within the Bay Area, TLG provides adaptive baby care equipment as well as an equipment lending library for parents, expectant parents or parenting grandparents with physical disabilities.

Trainings, Presentations and Workshops
Since 1982, Through the Looking Glass staff has conducted trainings, presentations, and workshops regarding families with disabilities to over 225,000 parents and professionals during local, regional national and international conferences, meetings, and workshops. Please see our Trainings, Presentations and Workshops page for highlights of upcoming as well as previous trainings, presentations and workshops.

Bay Area Parents with Developmental Disabilities / Intellectual Disabilities
Parents with disabilities who are Regional Center clients residing in Alameda or Contra Costa counties can receive individualized home based services during pregnancy and parenting.

Bay Area Parents with Disabilities & Deaf Parents

We provide home-based parent/child intervention, family support, and parenting education for families of parents with physical or visual disabilities, as well as parents with other diverse disabilities or medical issues. We also provide home-based early intervention and family support services for Deaf parents and their hearing infants and young children.

Please also see our Report of the Bay Area Parents with Disabilities and Deaf Parents Task Force.

Bay Area Parent Support Groups
TLG facilitates Bay Area support groups for parents with physical or visual disabilities. These support groups meet regularly and are facilitated by professionals who are also parents with disabilities.

TLG also facilitates a support group for mothers with intellectual disabilities.

Chatterbox is a parent-child interactional therapeutic play/care group designed to give parents the tools to encourage language skills in their children through fun, engaging and interactional activities.  Parents and their young children participate in morning snack, themed circle time with songs, arts & crafts, sensory motor activities, book time, outdoor fun, parent group (kids separate for child focused developmental activities), lunch and closing song.  The group is run by a special educator, speech and occupational therapy consultants and a family clinician all with specialized training and experience working with parents with intellectual disabilities.

Photos: Rene Buchgraber

Additional resources and information regarding Parents with Intellectual Disabilities

For more information contact:

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Voice: (510) 848-1112
Toll Free: (800) 644-2666
TTY: (800) 804-1616
FAX: (510) 848-4445
Monday - Friday; 9am to 5pm Pacific Time


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