Babysitting Children with Special Needs
How to find that one special person to take care of your child with special needs.
Do you need to get out of the house? Never mind that, do you want to get out of the house? Are your kids screaming right now as you are reading this, or are you one of the lucky ones that still get a nap time and are walking around your house like a mouse so as to not wake them up?
Having children is hard. Throw in a child with special needs and your life might as well be a circus. Sure you love them with all your heart, but you need a break. You deserve a break. So just get a babysitter. Yeah, right. I know that it is not that easy. There are so many more worries when you have a child with special needs and to trust a babysitter, for even just a couple hours, would be one more worry you don’t want to deal with right now.
So how do you choose? How do you make it easier on yourself? How do you find that special someone that will enrich your child’s life while you get to go to the movies for the first time in eight years? As a babysitter for eight years of two boys that have autism I have gained some knowledge I would love to share with you.
Change is hard. Change is hard for most people. However, for your child, change might be the worst thing in the world. Any kind of transition can trigger emotions you were not expecting. You already know this, I know.
What should you do about it? Introduce the change slowly. Or in your case, introduce the babysitter slowly. Please do not call someone out of the phone book at 4pm and ask them to be at your house by 6.
If you have a recommendation of someone great in your area start there. Call that person; see what kind of vibe you get. You should know within a couple of minutes of talking if this person will be a good fit for your child(ren). If you don’t have any recommendations, try the internet. I know it’s scary, but there are many services that prescreen candidates for babysitting. Most even do background checks! But again, start with a phone call.
If the phone call goes well, invite this person over to meet with you and your child. Don’t force any interaction, but let your child know what is going on and if possible to be present for most of the meeting. Ask your child after the meeting what he or she thought. If they are non-verbal, try to pick up on as many signs as you can gather. After all, you know your child; you know how to distinguish the good signs from the bad signs. If all went well schedule another meeting.
This time make it more about the child and their caregiver interacting. Maybe do a load of laundry. Wash the car. Lock yourself in your bedroom with your ear to the door. Whatever you choose to do with your semi free time you must be present, but not overbearing. See if these guys can get along without you. See if a relationship could develop. Watch the interaction from afar and imagine yourself not there… Do you like that picture? If you do you have probably started a good thing. If not, try, try again.
Finalize your choice
Everything seems to be a good fit, but how can you know for sure? How can you tell that the minute after you leave your child will still be in good hands? First, I would say listen to your gut. You all have one and it will probably give you more insight than anything. Trust it. If you want something more concrete to put your faith in here are some traits that every good babysitter should have:
• Patience. You know, that feeling you have at 8am, but somehow disappears by 1pm. Your babysitter should exude patience. You would pray this would never happen, but should your child be at his or her absolute worst you would want someone with enough patience to run a daycare alone.
• Energy. This person is going to be with your child for the next few hours, and my guess is that you don’t want someone who will only get up to get the remote. Make sure your new babysitter shows you that he or she is energetic and willing to have a tea party or be Darth Vader for a while.
• Common Sense. You want someone with a good head on their shoulders. If your child is on a special diet make sure this person could figure out that butter is also dairy, and there is gluten in crackers. Especially if you have a separate stash of goodies hidden for yourself!
• Positive. You want someone happy. Someone that will smile and focus on all of the wonderful things your child does when they are together. Your child might be reaching milestone after milestone, or it might have been three years since they reached their last goal, but you need someone who will give lots of praise and encouragement.
• Love. Lastly, you need someone who is warm and loving. They don’t have to be in love with your child the second they meet him or her, but to avoid 20 different babysitters (and transitions), you will want someone that could have a long term relationship with your child. It may take your child months to really become comfortable with their new babysitter and you will want someone willing to stick it out… for both of you.
There. Now you have everything I can give you. Start doing your homework so that someday soon you can get out of the house… and know that everything back home is under control.