Finding the Right Babysitter for a Special Needs Child
Parents need an occasional break to regroup, refresh themselves, and get reacquainted with each other as partners as well as parents. But a night out requires trustworthy childcare. Finding the right babysitter for a special needs child is fraught with added concerns.
Start with the Family Circle
Some family members have a natural affinity for children with differences, and are happy to pitch in. Others may think they’re being helpful when they’re not: criticizing methods of managing an Autistic child’s sensory issues, for example, or insisting that parents are “spoiling” a child by accommodating their special needs. Steer clear of family members who think their role is to “correct” your parenting or “fix” your child.
Team Up with Other Special Needs Parents
Parents of children with special needs get to know each other through therapists, special needs pre-school programs, and support groups. Many families find cooperative ways to provide childcare for each other, trading nights out or playdates with other families who “get it.” Parents who team up this way should share their child’s individual needs and quirks. Agree about appropriate activities, foods, and whether each other’s homes are safe in terms of their kids’ differences.
Look to the Schools
Teaching assistants in special needs classrooms can be a source of childcare. These hardworking helpers often are paid very little and may welcome the chance to earn some extra money babysitting. They usually receive training in helping with various disabilities from special needs teachers. Most school districts perform background checks on anyone they hire who will be in direct contact with children (ask your district if they do this in their hiring process). Special needs families with older children in your town may be able to recommend helpers who worked with their children.
Local Colleges with Special Education Programs
College students studying to become special educators, or physical or occupational therapists, need field experience. Contact the relevant department offices and the campus career services office to find out if they will post a job announcement or could recommend students nearing graduation who may be interested.
Tag Team Approach
The struggle to identify, interview, and select babysitters for a special needs child sometimes simply doesn’t succeed. Parents who aren’t comfortable leaving their child in the care of others for an evening out can adopt a “tag team” approach. Each partner gets a night out for themselves, to share with friends or go see a show, while the other parent stays home with the kids. Next time, they switch off.
Connect with Parents of Typical Kids
All parents worry about selecting childcare for their kids, especially during a pandemic. Friends with typical kids may have experience searching for childcare that could help you identify potential candidates to care for your special needs child.
When you find a good candidate, act like a careful employer. Interview, request references, and ask for consent to perform background checks. If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking. Your child’s health and safety are at stake.