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Atlanta, GA,

Parenting with a Spinal Cord Injury Presents Challenges and Opportunities

Here is a list of positive things that can come from the experience.

By Jill Koval, Ph.D.
Director, Psychological Services, Shepherd Center Inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program

Having a spinal cord injury affects everyone in the family. People who are newly injured often fear being unable to be a good parent.

Though being a parent with a spinal cord injury is challenging, there are some positive things that can result for you and your child. They include the following:

  • You can be a wonderful role model, showing your children that life doesn’t end when there is an unexpected, unwelcome and catastrophic injury or illness. Many children describe their injured parent as their “hero.”
  • You can teach your children, their friends and their friend’s families about disability and being an advocate for people with disabilities.
  • You can show your children that as a member of the family, everyone, even younger children, can do something that is helpful as the family adjusts to their new normal. Children love to help and feel a sense of importance when they know they are helping.
  • You can provide important guidance about safety and educate your children about the importance of seatbelts, diving feet first and not driving under the influence.
  • You can demonstrate that while a person may function differently, you are still the same person and can be a great, caring and loving parent.
  • You will feel much better about yourself by maintaining your emotional connection to your children.

For more information on parenting with a spinal cord injury, visit these web pages:

Shepherd Center Helps Parents with a New Disability Find Effective Ways to Care for Their Children

Shepherd Center Staff Members and Former Patients Share some Do's and Don'ts of Parenting with a Disability

JILL KOVAL, Ph.D., is the director of psychological services in the Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Program at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She has worked at Shepherd Center since 1989. Dr. Koval has a doctorate in psyhcology from George Washington University. You may reach her at

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at