Parents with Disabilities

At age 20, I met two young women with intellectual disabilities that have shaped my life.

The first one was only a few years older than me and had two children aged 7 and 8 years old. I met her as I was her daughter’s summer camp educator. My role was to favor inclusion.

The other was my age. Her parents had decided she would get a tubal ligation to prevent her from ever becoming pregnant. And they had asked me to be her support person in recovery. They had also asked me not to divulge the outcome of that procedure.

With these two women in mind, I knew I could only become a disability advocate.

I thought the best way to advocate for their human rights would be to become a health and social services professional. I chose to undertake my Ph.D. and become a psychologist.

I became a clinical psychologist in the rehabilitation world. To have even more influence I went in the route of management and became an intermediate and then senior manager of several clinical programs, including the one I created to serve parents with intellectual disabilities. I supervised clinical teams that included Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Psychologists and Nurses.

To further impact my profession and the clients I served, I offered lectures in several Universities (Brock University, UQAM, McGill, University of Sydney) in Disability, Psychology and Social Work Programs and I supervised numerous practicums and internships of students coming from those programs.

Fifteen years into my career, due to an interesting turn of fate, I acquired a Spinal Cord Injury. I have since navigated through the system as a person, and parent of a young child, with an acquired disability status.

My academic and professional training, my management experience, the research I conduct (still to this day) and my accident and subsequent injury have given me an interesting perspective on parenting, employability, equity, privilege, diversity & inclusion.

In 2021 I became The Inspirational Speaker of the Year!

Why do I bring this up?

Because I had been struggling with depression for years as a result of my over-achieving, over-performing fixed mindset. I did my therapy, saw my doctor regularly but I was still stuck in the stories I told myself. Until I learned about the transformational power of storytelling and the science behind Positive Psychology.

This was the start of me embracing my disability and leveraging it as an untapped hidden talent or perspective.

I have lived experience of disability and inclusion.
I have academic and clinical expertise about accommodations and interventions strategies.

I have reflected on my positioning as an Author and I have continued my leadership skills as the Chair of the Parenting and Parents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Special Research Interest Group (SIRG) of the International Association on the Scientific Study on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IASSIDD).

I believe that focusing on our strengths of character can lead us to living a fulfilling life. With my family, I learned to be a solution-finder to make our world more accessible.

Key Research Publications

  • Feldman, M. & Aunos, M. (2010). Comprehensive Competence-Based Parenting Assessment for Parents with Learning difficulties and Their Children, 170 pages. NADD Press. (link to author page)

  • Feldman, M., & Aunos, M. (2020). Recent trends and future directions in research regarding parents with intellectual and development disabilities. In J. Cairney, R. Condillac & P. B. Riosa (Eds), Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 7 pages. Springer: Philadelphia, USA. (invited).

  • Aunos, M., Hodes, M., Llewellyn, G., Spencer, M., Pacheco, L., Jareslàtt, G., Tarleton, B., Springer, L., & Höglund, B. (2020). Chapter 14: The choice of becoming a parent. In R. J. Stancliffe, M. L. Wehmeyer, K. A. Shogren, & B. H. Abery (Eds), Choice, Preference, and Disability: An International Perspective. Springer Publishing.

Key Peer-reviewed Publications:

  • Aunos, M., Spencer, M., Pacheco, L., & Pituch, E. (Submitted). This changed everything: a critical reflection on the impact internalised ableist constructs had on becoming a disabled mother. Societies.

  • McConnell, D., Aunos, M., Pacheco, L., & Feldman, M. (2020). Child maltreatment investigations in Canada: Main and moderating effects of primary caregiver cognitive impairment. Child Maltreatment.

  • Aunos, M., & Pacheco, L. (2020). Able or unable: how do professionals determine the parenting capacity of mothers with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Public Child Welfare.

  • Aunos, M., & Pacheco, L. (2013). Changing perspectives via collaborative framework: parents with intellectual disabilities and their families. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 7, 658-674.

  • Feldman, M., McConnell, D. & Aunos, M. (2012). Parental Cognitive Impairment, mental health and child outcomes in child protection population. Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disability, 5, 66-90. doi: 10.1080/19315864.2011.587632

  • Aunos, M., Feldman, M. & Goupil, G. (2008). Children of mothers with intellectual disabilities: a link between home environment, parenting abilities and children’s behaviors. Journal on Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 21, 320-330.

Keynotes in the field of Parenting:

  • Aunos, M. (2022). Parenting with a disability: What we know in research and how it feels in real life. Virtual Conference, Uppsala, Sweden.

  • Aunos, M., Pacheco, L., & Spencer, M. (2020). Keynote: Complex needs or complex circumstances? The life situations of parents with intellectual and development disabilities. 2nd Virtual (online) Disability Conference.

  • Aunos, M. (2016). Parenting with Disabilities: from outsider to insider – Lessons Learned. Invited Keynote – Dean’s Lecture, Education and Social Work Lecture Series, University of Sydney.

amplifying voices

Amplifying Voices

Becoming a parent is a valued role in our Society and one that is highly celebrated.

Except when you have a disability.

When you have a disability, the first thing most people express is concern.

And concern sometimes leads to decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the child or family. In most cases, support is the better option for all.

To envision a better future for these families, we, as professionals, need to be clear on what is possible and how we can make it happen.

And that is what this podcast is all about. I want to show you how parenting can be done differently successfully and I want to share with you the knowledge and tools experts in the field have come up with.

Twice per month, in partnership with the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare and as part of my role as the Chair of the Parents & Parenting with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities SIRG, I will be releasing a conversation I have had with top experts, professionals, and academics.

We will speak about seminal research findings – the ones that have a direct impact on clinical and frontline work.

I will also interview parents and adult children of parents with disabilities. Because sometimes, in order to reflect and be open to new possibilities, we need to hear from people themselves.

If you are a worker in child welfare, a new practitioner or someone with numerous years in the field, an early career researcher, a lawyer or even a parent or child yourself, you will have a rare opportunity to learn directly from these experts.

We all know that parenting is hard, Yet Parents with Disabilities parent well with creativity and because we value teamwork and the concept of interdependence! Come hear about ways experts say we can best empower these families and let’s all learn together about how parenting can be done differently.


Thanks to Valerie Rosen Photography for the pictures taken of me that are used on this website. Please check out