Thursday, November 17, 2011

Special needs child care: Babysitters for kids with special needs


A girl in our neighborhood left a flyer in our mailbox the other day. "I'm a freshman in high school, and I'd love to babysit for you!" it said in rainbow colors.

I smiled at her enthusiasm, and wished we could have her over.

Right now, our babysitters consist of the wonderful woman who has been with us since Max's birth and who looks after the kids while I work. We hired L even before Max was born, he has grown up with her, and we are super-lucky to have her in our lives. Occasionally, she'll come over on a Saturday night. We also have a mom in our area who does babysitting watch the kids one evening a week when L has to leave early. And the gym Dave belongs to has the occasional Parents Night Out on Saturdays, where you can drop off the kids at 5:30 for a few hours.

Dr. Jen, the awesome pediatrician behind Play This Way, recently sent me an article about a Chicago-area agency that is training nannies to work with special needs. Check out the video:


This sounded great to me. It seems like more child-care businesses are realizing the pressing need for special needs child care; Care.com, who I've done work for, has a dedicated Special Needs Care section.

Still, I wish we could just have a neighborhood teen over. Sabrina looks up to older girls, and she'd love to have one as a sitter. Thing is, I just wouldn't feel comfortable leaving Max with one. He needs help going up the stairs, and he's getting big; he needs his anti-seizure meds at night. We could just dash out after the kids are asleep, but I'm wary. What if Max had a seizure?

I stared at the flyer wistfully. Maybe she could come over one day and be a mother's helper while I was around, I thought. And then I tucked it away in a drawer.

Who babysits for you?


Photo/VRod007

26 comments:

  1. All families should look in their counties for respite programs. The state of NJ has different programs that might fit your need. I know Advancing Opportunities has parent night out, in home respite, and other programs. Then the Epilepsy foundation has others. CP of North Jersey also has other options. Most are through DDD either no cost or low cost.

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  2. My son is on a feeding tube so the complications of the tube are usually enough to scare anyone away. We are lucky enough to have a set of grandparents and a wonderful child free sister that will babysit for us. Also several nursing students have offered to babysit for us. I haven't taken the nursing students up on the offer yet because we of the commitment in training them.

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  3. This is such a big issue for us too. It's hard to find someone that I trust, then someone who won't be frightened when I talk about how to administer Diastat in the event of a seizure. We mostly have our parents come from out of state if we're going to be out late. During the week, I have a co-worker who comes, but we are very close by and never gone more than a few hours. If she's not available, we don't go out.

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  4. Good topic for highlighting, Ellen!

    Competency for basic but different-from-typical child care is the first issue - narrowing options for most parents of children with special needs.

    Sometimes I have problems with nannies who have been with a child since birth. I've met more than a few who enable continued dependency. That's a complex behavior to influence toward change. Barbara

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  5. Our babysitter is the boys' dad. And by that I mean that every other weekend the boys go to his house and so on those weekends my husband and I go out to dinner, run errands, and do all the things we really can't do as a couple when the boys are with us. Other than that arrangement we don't have a babysitter.

    Its pretty hard to find someone willing to change the diapers of an eight and six year old!

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  6. I JUST blogged about this because it really is so hard. I've only left my boys with my friends (adults) and this year I've had several move away or get married. That just stinks. So my husband took a day off work so we could have a day date. Obviously not the best choice but we needed that time together until we can find a better solution. Ugh.

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  7. My parents hired a babysitter/housekeeper, Virginia, a year befofe I was born she was with us until we moved to a big city after which she stayed on with my aunt and uncle unfortunately she died a few years ago but now my parents leave me with a twenty-five-year-old while they're at work it's nice because we're close in age.

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  8. From a professional nanny who used to be the neighborhood babysitter...it may be worth a call to the young lady in question. There actually are teen (and older) sitters out there who have experience with special needs children and/or who would be more than willing to have you train them to care for you child(ren). When I was 13 I decided I wanted a career working with special needs children (specifically, as an early intervention teacher). I volunteered with the early intervention program in my school district and got many regular families to babysit for through that. I had other babysitting friends who also had experience with special needs children...either because of their own siblings/family members or because they found a parent willing to train them. I know it is hard to find someone to trust your children with, even if you do not have a child with special needs. And I know that there ARE caregivers who are uncomfortable (meaning, unfamiliar and inexperienced) caring for children with special needs. But it never hurts to ask that eager babysitter what her background is, what her experience is, and if she's willing to learn about caring for YOUR child.

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  9. We've been very lucky finding people through care.com. We currently have a pediatric PT who was trained in another country and therefore can't practice here in the states yet...and a special ed teacher in training. Jackson being in a wheelchair makes caring for him a difficult physical task - something not everyone can do. I'm thankful we have such wonderful people to care for our little guy!!!

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  10. I just have not left the kids with a sitter yet. Yes, they have been left with grandma and the neighbor next door and a very good friend of mine who has a child with some minor special needs. But only on rare "I need someone really badly" occasions.

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  11. Babysitters are always a challenge. If we want to get out while Maya is awake, we use the grandparents---or her former therapists from EI :)

    We've used a local college student and just have her arrive right after bedtime. We're lucky in the fact that our girl sleeps like a rock, so I'm not worried once she's asleep.

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  12. We use teens from an organization like Friendship Circle who have been our regular volunteers. Once they've been coming for awhile (while I'm there), we get to a point where they can come without me.

    The first few times, I used to stay close to home so I can come back if I need to. Now, I end up relying on my older son pretty often to pick up the slack with E. And when my 13-year-old daughter is home, she takes care of it.

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  13. the thing to do is put out your mom feelers to other special needs moms who have older children my kid jordan who is almost 17 sits for us she knows about seizures because of james and helping him what to do and not do for him. and it is not as scarey for her because she lives with it every day. i have also been training her to give james his meds for awhile. but we are in Wyoming so she clearly cant do it but find someone closer who lives with a special needs child . also perhaps maybe just call the sitter for your girl. have her go on a field trip to the mall or something i do not know but it might help her with her recent jealousy issues as well for you t o arrange a special something for her with an older gilr that could be fun like getting her nails done while max has therapy and you are out . but make it just for her maybe even let her decide.

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  14. april corvin from starlight starbrightNovember 17, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    for Our household we have a home health aide that is our "babysitter" she is here for 20 hrs a week and she takes care of tyler who has epilsepy and does have sezuires . We also get respite from other programs in our communitly that are free. Like ARC they have different types of respite available for special needs kids. April from starlight

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  15. Mom and Dad--but then, we're an extended family, all under one roof now. It works out great; there's always someone to cover for me and there's never any drama.

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  16. You just never know. I was on a feeding tube for the first year of my life, and my mother was understandably wary of having anyone else look after me. However, we live in a small town with few options. When a family friend's seventeen-year-old daughter was desperate to babysit her, my mom turned her down. A lot. But she persisted, and eventually my mom taught her how to use the feeding tube like a pro. She was my main babysitter for a long time and now I'm godmother to her son, twenty years later :)

    I have also babysat kids with developmental delays, and believe me, it's scary. It's scary enough to have someone's precious kids in your hands when you're pretty much a kid yourself, but when they have different needs, the responsibility just seems so much more. Obviously, some kids' needs are simply beyond the scope of a random babysitter, but many can be cared for just fine with a good babysitter who's willing to go the extra mile. Your mother's helper idea is a good one, and if the kids get used to her, you can always consider leaving her with them alone for an hour or so. But once again, every family's different and has to do what's best for them.

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  17. We've been really lucky to find some Vanderbilt students (we live in Nashville) that are studying special ed. Although it does make me nervous now that Jake has had more seizures lately, I just have to hope that they can handle it. I tell them about the Diastat and to call us and 911. So far it hasn't happened. Jake needs help with almost everything too and Emmett is 16 months and a very busy typical toddler. I try to get them ready for bed on the weekends if we go out, so it is not too overwhelming. I worry about the future when Jake is a teenager. Will the Vanderbilt students still want to sit for him when he still has so many issues but not as easy to handle because of his size? I try not to worry about that yet, but I know it will be am issue. All that to say...I've found that getting someone new is always an adjustment and I try to have them spend time with us while we are here before I leave them alone with the kids. This helps and overtime it gets better but it is a leap at first.

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  18. We don't go out cause my mom is our only sitter & she helps on the days I work. I feel guilty asking for any more than that. Sadly, I'm sure it hasn't helped our marriage. I'm afraid to leave her with anyone else

    MeghatronsMom

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  19. We ran up against the same issue and being that we lived hours from my in-laws and states from my family, we only went out when our parents were in town visiting and could watch our kids one night. We recently moved to California, even further from family, but we found a behavioral therapist who works with children like our oldest son as her day job, and she's amazing with both our boys. I found her on Sitter.com after looking through resumes for anyone with any special needs qualifications. I am glad to know some agencies are recognizing the need.

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  20. Why not have her take Sabrina out for special girl outings, like for ice cream or things like that?

    I'm only suggesting it because I have a much-younger sister, and she loved our trips to lunch, movies, and the mall.

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  21. I found the most amazing babysitter for my boys. She is a nursing student and she is awesome with the boys. She comes once a week so me and my hubby can have a date night.

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  22. We are new to SC and I really want to return to work, but how can I justify going back to work if I can't even find or trust a baby sitter with my special needs child? It is difficult and while we take advantage of respite so we can have date nights, it is still hard on the professional in me to not be able to work because of day care & baby sitter fears and shortages.

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  23. I do a lot of babysitting for SN families. One of the moms said "you guys have no idea how much this means. I could NOT have a life without you."

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  24. We just moved across the country and have not yet put out any feelers. As a result, we are feeling rather frayed. This post is just the jump-start I needed to get on this so that my husband and I can have some quiet "us" time.

    Thanks...

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  25. I found a sitter on care.com via their special needs childcare section.

    My advice is-
    Put adverts in the papers, online. Look for childcare online. Get recommendations from doctors and therapists. Have friends and family babysit.

    Max does NOT have seizures so please stop worrying about seizures. Seizures are NEVER worth getting all freaked out about.

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  26. It is quite difficult as Noah is in a wheelchair. I managed to find someone who has only cared for typical kids on Care.com. (Not ideal but I had no choice) Sometimes Noah''s PT and OT take on the role of babysitter.

    The person who came was willing to learn how to care for Noah so me and my partner (Connor) could have a break. I had prepared a written guide about my sons that covered everything for her to read.

    I'm sure we're eligible for respite care as Noah is a wheelchair user but I havent looked into it yet. We live in Aspen, Colorado.

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Thanks for sharing!