Parenting During the Storms: Experiences of Parents with Disabilities Raising Children During COVID & Social Turmoil

Denna Lambert & Dr. Beth Douthirt-Cohen

(Sponsored by Counseling Center)

2021 Disability Summit
April 13, 2021 – 11:25 AM-12:30 PM


Emerging research is beginning to document the challenges and impacts of long-term stress associated with parenting during unprecedented times. We are in the early stages of understanding how life has changed for our society and millions of families due to COVID and are still wrestling with the complex and pervasive problem of racism in our country. However, the voices and lived experiences of parents with disabilities has not been well analyzed or documented.

The impact of the pandemic has shaken and changed how parents with disabilities access services such as groceries, health/child care, transportation, which had known system level challenges prior to the existence of COVID-19. Many parents have had to face multiple questions surrounding the safety of their children. Questions of whether they would have access to equitable health care amidst the prospect of rationing care. And questions of how prioritization of vaccine access factors in the needs of those who are medically fragile or vulnerable due to not only health condition(s) but also their status as a disabled individual relying on others which heightens risk for exposure.

Through this presentation, we will share both of the presenters’ lived experiences as parents with disabilities, and innovative solutions that have emerged because of the pandemic. Participants will gain an understanding of the challenges faced by parents with disabilities, how we can offer support to disabled parents and build more community, and how the lessons we’ve learned can be turned into establishing inclusive and responsive environments for parents with disabilities.


Denna Lambert (she/her)

Twitter: @Dennalambert01

Denna Lambert is a project manager with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where she coordinates the Center’s efforts in developing and launching the GSFC’s Information and Collaboration Center (GIC2), a research center for NASA scientists and engineers. During her 16 year career with NASA, Denna has completed multiple NASA assignments that include supporting the budgetary process for a range of science missions in various life-cycle phases. Her professional experience combines her core beliefs in transformational leadership, dynamic governance, transparent government contracting, and equity across the spectrum of human experience. She has recently taken leadership in the Agency’s efforts to engage and support employees who are caregivers for children and elders. In addition to her professional efforts, Denna actively supports community organizations from Greenbelt Mamas & Papas, Dynamic Community Governance, and to Rivers of LIfe AME church. Prior to adopting her son Kaleb, Denna served a coach for a community based FIRST LEGO League team and previously served as a Girl Scout Troop Leader for three years.

Beth Douthirt-Cohen (she/her or they/them)

Twitter: @bethadc

Beth Douthirt-Cohen has been deeply engaged in racial justice, disability justice, LGBTQIA+ justice, gender justice, and addressing all forms of religious bias for the past 20 years. Beth’s work focuses on building the capacity of institutions, groups, and individuals to interrupt and effectively address current and historical legacies of all forms of oppression, centering racial justice, from boardrooms to playgrounds to religious halls to living rooms to classrooms. Beth’s research and teaching looks at how we can strengthen the capacity of majoritized people to engage—ethically, effectively, and with accountability—across power and identity differences. 3 While chasing around her hilarious and energetic toddler, Sam, Beth loves to dance, read, paint, and go on long walks near bodies of water.