Babysitting Children with Special Needs

Child 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.

Finding a babysitter

Step 1:

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.

Step 2:

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

babysitter for special needs children

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.

Best Sensory Stocking Stuffers (under $5 each)

Sensory Stocking Stuffers

All mothers want their children to develop and improve concentration and fine and gross motor skills, in addition to meeting all developmental milestones and specific sensory needs. As my kids were growing up, I noticed that they have their own preferences when it comes to sensory toys and I came up with toy suggestions with all of them in mind. The toys featured in this blog post are available on Amazon and you can easily find similar toys on the website. Each item in the collage below are very affordable and costs less than $5 each, making them great year-round gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers for kids. However, please bear in mind that toy prices on Amazon do change from time to time.

Sensory Stocking Stuffers for Kids

Do you have sensory stocking stuffer ideas for kids? Let me know in the comments section below.

Preparing for our wish trip to Disney and Give Kids the World

Eve was granted a wish through the Make A Wish Foundation earlier this year. We met with our wish granters and we discussed a few different options based on Eve’s likes and abilities to participate. One place that kept coming up in the discussion was Give Kids the World village, a magical place in Orlando that welcomes families from many different wish organizations. The village is wheelchair accessible, fun and we would have all the comforts of home vs a hotel a room. Give Kids the World Village is more than just a place to stay, they have parties, things to do and places to eat. Take a look at this brief video to get a taste of this amazing place.

As part of our stay at the Give Kids the World Village, we would also get tickets to theme parks and other Florida attractions to make our stay fun and exciting. Since Eve loves aquariums and large animals, we also talked about a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during the week. We were so excited to hear that Make A Wish approved this wish and our entire family was invited to go. They are taking care of all the details, even the smallest ones so we can just enjoy family time. Eve is the happiest when we are all together and this trip will allow time away from the normal busyness of life. I don’t know that we have had a week without medical appointments or therapies this year, so this week will be great respite for all of us.

Since I am a planner by nature, I have found a few ways to keep things organized in a low key way. We are a family of 8 so we do need to plan a bit to give every child a chance to experience something fun. If you are planning a trip to Give Kids the World Village, maybe this will help you too:


These are my favorite apps for planning as well as while in Orlando. I tend to have a good connection at the parks but you may want to jot down notes if you are unsure.

Happ4Hotels: enter GKTW as the hotel code to get information about events, entertainment and other village news. This app will help you in planning which nights to enjoy parties at the village and when to stay late in the parks.

My Disney Experience is all things Walt Disney World. Make dining reservations, check park hours and even find photopass photographers.

Universal FL is an app for Universal Studios. Out the apps I looked out, this one is free and most user friendly.

Nativoo Orlando if you plan to dine outside the theme parks (or even in the theme parks), this is a great app for discovering Orlando area.

Give Kids the World Village

Give Kids the World Village website has videos and information about the village. I looked through the village guide to get an idea what was in our villa and what activities my children might enjoy. I hear the Christmas party is awesome and it’s held every week.

Facebook groups Make A Wish Disney Trips, Disney Planning Mamas Wish Trip, Disney Wish Trips for Special Needs are great ways to talk to other parents about their Disney and Universal Studios wish experiences. And it’s nice to connect with other families who understand the unique journey we are all on.


Disney Food Blog:  food is half the fun at Walt Disney World! Learn about restaurants and best counter service spots before you go. And snacks, don’t forget about the snacks. Dole whips and mickey bars and turkey legs. Yumm!

Kenny the Pirate: where can you find your favorite character? This website will tell you where the characters are and tips on how to see them. They also have helpful crowd calendars which can help you decide which parks to choose while you are staying at the village.

Wish details

Make A Wish gave us a rough idea on what to expect, but we received the final details about a week before our trip at a send off party. If you need to know how much to expect in spending money, flight or rental vehicle details, your wish granter can help you with that. Each wish organization is different in how they handle aspects of travel. Enjoy the fact that they will take care of most of the details, but it’s also nice to know there is someone taking care of things behind the scenes.

Give Kids the World also has people who customize and help you with your stay there. We received an email from the itinerary fairy, we spoke about our dietary needs and decided what parks might be fun to visit.

There are tons of Disney and Universal resources out there. If you have one that made your trip easier, let me know in the comments!

When Rejection Turns into Something Wonderful

A few months ago, one of my favorite author/speakers, Jen Hatmaker announced that she was looking for 500 writers to help her launch her new book, For The Love. Having just finished reading her book Interrupted, I knew whatever this book was about, I wanted in on it. And if I could get my hands on an advanced copy, wow, that would mean less waiting. Patience is a virtue and I possess exactly none of it.

5000 writers/bloggers applied and as luck would have it, I was not accepted. In true Jen style, her rejection email was  funny, compassionate and full of love. I let any feelings of jealousy go, because I know it was not a popularity contest, at least I hope not. But yeah, it was not the outcome I had hoped.

Then, a small number of the “rejects” (not really, but perhaps the “not chosen ones”?) named themselves #the4500, sending hilarious tweets to Jen. It was brilliant. Jen took notice and saw humor, fun and love from the group that were not chosen initially. More joined the 4500 movement and began to get to know each other in a facebook group.  Organically, the group of women gathered in a way that doesn’t happen all the time in Christian circles. Women who were longing for sisterhood, authenticity and support for their deepest Jesus dreams were finding others on a similar journey. I can’t say that I have witnessed anything so real in a long time.

I have no clue what the chosen 500 group is like, but I imagine it being very similar to the 4500. Who knew that rejection could band together hundreds of women from all denominations, walks of life and seasons of life together. And as disappointing as it was to be rejected, there was now a group of friends which felt far from rejection. Support, prayer, advice was just the tip of the iceberg with these women. Love is a verb and so there has been love extended to people to meet practical needs. Get togethers are happening around the country and previous strangers are now doing life together.

I have thought about this experience and how this happens in other aspects of my life as well. I know that there are areas of my life where rejection felt much worse than Jen’s gracious email. There have been closed doors, goodbyes, boundaries that needed to be set and there has been flat out rejection. There have been what I thought were NOs in my life that were only NOT YETs as time was not right yet. There have been what I thought were NOs that were WAIT, THERE’S SOMETHING SO MUCH BETTERs if I trusted and let go. How many times do I want to morph my NO into a YES knowing that I am trying to be a captain of a sinking ship with that YES? Do I dare to trust my NO and discover what might be on the other side? Joining a group of women has allowed me to trust other NOs as the best course for me and find my ultimate YES.

So thank you Jen, thank you #ForTheLove and most of all thank you to the ladies behind #the4500. There is a bigger lesson here and it starts with a gentle rejection and ends with love that moves us to action.

Jen’s book  For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards  can be preordered from Amazon. I was lucky to receive a few advance chapters and I can’t wait to read the rest!

For the Love

Self Care and Special Needs Parenting

Two things that don’t seem to go together very well: self care and special needs parenting. I know moms who seem to do self care well but unfortunately I am not one of them. I was sitting at our therapy waiting room reading a book and I happened to laugh out loud (Jen Hatmaker’s new book For The Love was the culprit) attracting curious looks.

It started a conversation about how little time moms of children of medical/special needs have to themselves. I don’t read books except when I am in waiting room.  “I don’t take good care of myself” one mom confessed. We all nodded in agreement.


This month my husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. That prompted a time a reflection and needed changes in many areas of our lives. Self care rose to the top as we want to be able to give our children present, energetic parents. An empty cup has nothing to pour into others.

We are not able to go on long overnight trips, but we decided to do a short getaway. No distractions, no schedule and just time together. It will be marvelous! I feel like if I don’t plan it, it will never happen. So more things will be planned and scheduled. I hope this will be a start of intentional self care.