Parents with Disabilities: Through The Looking Glass

A preschool age girl with a prosthetic leg is at a medical appointment. The child is meeting with her physical therapist. The child is sitting on the floor building with wooden toy blocks. The medical professional is sitting on the floor assisting the girl.

Posted in Disability  |  Tagged

by Nia Parks, Michelle Du, Amanda McAndrews, Sol Mundo-Barillas, Emily Fisher, Andrea Trujillo (GU)

One program that provides inclusive care to parents with disabilities is Through the Looking Glass, found in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through the Looking Glass founded in 1982 focuses on providing services to families with disabilities. Their mission , “To provide and encourage respectful and empowering services—guided by personal disability experience and disability culture—for families that have children, parents, or grandparents with disability or medical issues”  means they focus on the individuality of each circumstance, within a disability culture perspective. It centers on reducing obstacles across levels in direct care, households, communities, and services that harm people with disabilities. With Through the Looking Glass, disability is not portrayed as negative or traumatic, for it favors empathy, individuality, and culture. Through the Looking Glass has held one national and three international conferences and presented before the United Nations focusing on advocacy for parents with disabilities. 

Currently, they provide services to approximately 350 families with disabilities yearly, and ninety percent are people of color. Through the Looking Glass focuses on the intersection of disability, poverty, and racism. They seek to be reflective and engaged across all levels, evident by their staff of whom approximately seventy percent have personal or family disability experience and approximately fifty percent are people of color. The staff consists of psychologists, occupational therapists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, rehabilitation counselors, developmental specialists, and early childhood educators.

Through the Looking Glass practices a family-centered approach across programs.  For example the  Adaptive Bay Care Services uses strategies and adaptive equipment to maximize accessibility and safety, conscientious of the caregiver.  Supports are tailored to the individual caregiver’s needs. An  occupational therapists spend time to know each family and understand their priorities  before providing equipment, techniques, and strategies. Some examples of equipment include lifting harnesses and adapted cribs. The equipment and services are provided at no cost to those attending the Early Head Start Program offered by Through the Looking Glass. 

Other programs include grant  funding  to reduce costs for specific residences in the Bay Area and  telehealth-based consultation for families in California outside the Bay Area. Through the Looking Glass makes sure to specifically engage with parents and grandparents, demonstrating awareness for the diversity in who caregivers could be. Through the Looking Glass advocates against the unnecessary removal of a child from a safe and loving home based on a parent’s disability. For parents with disabilities involved in child custody situations, they have published guides and articles to help.

Since 1987, the staff of Through the Looking Glass have served as expert witnesses in custody cases, and they have worked on the passage of legislation for the rights and resources of parents with disabilities in Idaho, Kansas, and California. They also have specific programs to help professionals like those in Child Protective Services and Early Intervention programs when serving a parent with a disability. These are all aspects to fulfill their mission of inclusive care.