Parents deserve time away from the responsibilities and demands of family and home life. Your first order of business, however, is to find a qualified and trustworthy babysitter who understands your child’s specific needs and is competent to meet them.
During the interview process, ask specific questions about each candidate’s experience with special needs children. It is important that the babysitter have some previous training or experience. Be upfront about your child’s abilities and limitations, and ask candidates what they can do to accommodate your child’s unique challenges.
It is best to conduct initial interviews without your child present. There is no need to confuse your son or daughter by introducing him or her to multiple caregivers they will likely never see again. Once you pinpoint the strongest candidate, the next step will be to introduce her to your child. Observe their interaction; does she actively engage him or her? Is she keeping your child entertained? Does she focus on your child as a person, rather than on his or her disabilities?
Communication Is Key
Once you’ve found the right babysitter for your special needs child, communication is key. Below are some points to share with your babysitter, depending on your child’s health condition and your preferences as parents:
The capabilities of your child (can the child speak distinctly, feed him-/herself, correctly perceive dangers in his/her environment, etc.?);
Behaviors to expect in the child (for example, is the child prone to tantrums?);
Could the child be physically assaultive? If so, how should the babysitter respond?;
How to effectively relate to the child (Does the child need structure? Should latitude be shown? Should the babysitter attempt to snuggle the child at first meeting? Should she allow the child to gradually warm up to her instead? What manner of communication works best for the child? What manner of redirection works best?);
How much patience will likely be needed and in what contexts?;
Safety preparedness (i.e., ensuring that all exterior doors are locked, in the case of autism);
Allergies or other sensitivities (i.e. diminished immune response in the case of AIDS);
Favorites or fascinations (i.e. spinning objects, in the case of autism);
Illness-specific care instructions (i.e. how to feed your child, in the case of multiple sclerosis);
Things to look for (i.e. pre-seizure indications, in the case of epilepsy);
Emergency response protocol;
Doctor’s name and contact information.
You Know Your Child Best
YOU have spent a great deal of time getting to know your child, YOU have been to enough doctors’ appointments to know your child’s condition thoroughly, and YOU have learned via the sometimes tricky trial and error process how best to relate to and safeguard your child. Communicating as much as possible with your babysitter will help shorten her own learning curve and make the adaptation process easier for everyone.
About the Author
Candi Wingate is an expert in the child care industry with over 20 years experience. She is the founder of Nannies4Hire.com and Care4Hire.com, author of “100 Tips for Nannies & Families,” and mother of two.