All parents need time away from the kids to interact with other adults and recharge their batteries; this is especially true for parents of kids with special needs. But if parents of typical children find it difficult to find a sitter or care-giver to trust with their kids, this can be even more challenging when looking for sitters and caregivers with the skills and experience needed to care for your special needs child. Follow these tips to make it easier:
1. Build a pipeline
Even if you already have a primary care-giver for your special needs child, you need to make sure you have babysitters who can cover in a pinch. Look for sitters whose circumstances mean that occasional work suits them. Alternatively, form a group with parents of children with similar special needs so, collectively, the ‘occasional’ work becomes steady work.
2. Fish in the right pond
Be clear about the needs of your child. State explicitly what issues your child faces or symptoms that need to be addressed; include a description of technology or medicine used in the care of your child. Highlight triggers and things the sitter or caregiver should avoid to keep your child safe, comfortable and happy as well as what ‘emergencies’ or bad days might entail. Ask for resumes from babysitters and caregivers that might suit the needs of your child: this will ensure that you bring realistic candidates to your home to interview.
3. Interview AND road test
Test the experience highlighted in the sitters CV with a list of targeted questions and scenarios specific to your child’s needs. Also ask about particularly challenging events with other kids and how he or she handled it. But most importantly, make sure there is time for the sitter or caregiver to interact with all your kids. You will see first hand how he or she both manages the needs of your special needs child and how they get along. You will also see how the sitter balances care given to the siblings. Always call ALL references and do / review a background check.
4. Develop a safety net
Once you have a primary caregiver and back-up babysitters in place for your special needs child, you should be confident that you can leave your child with others so that you can take care of your own needs, right? If only it were that easy! Develop a safety net so that you know your sitters have options if they cannot contact you if an emergency arises. This can include an emergency care guide that you create and leave at home that includes what to do and who to call for emergencies. Family members are great ‘second lines’ as are the group you created with parents of kids with similar special needs.
5. Recharge your batteries
Go! Get out of the house! Your batteries need to be ‘full’ so that you can give your special needs child and your other children your very best.