Whether you have a medical appointment, need to stay late at work, or want to enjoy Date Night, finding a babysitter is important for most families. When you have a child with autism and other special needs, finding the perfect match for your child and your family can be challenging.
So that both you and your child can be comfortable while you are away, here are some tips to ensure a good fit.
- Sitter Search: There are countless sites and services where you can access profiles of potential caregivers. Some allow you to create a profile, indicating your specific wants and expectations, viewable by potential caregivers and you can view theirs. You can narrow your search by experience, education, certifications for emergency response and crisis intervention, etc. Many communities have companies and agencies with pre-screened staff who provide respite care exclusively to children with autism and other special needs.
- Meet and Greet: Many children with autism are strongly bound by familiarity, predictability, and routine. Sudden changes can cause great anxiety for a child with autism. So that your child isn’t forced to negotiate meeting a new person and routine instantaneously, have one or two practice sessions. Invite the prospective candidate over and give him or her the opportunity to spend some time with your child. Allow your child to ease into the new relationship.
- Transition Slowly: If the first introduction goes well, initiate another session wherein the prospective caregiver assumes the caregiver role. Your child can slowly become more familiar with a new person and different routine and still have access to you. Doing so can ease the transition between your care and the new babysitter’s care.
- Consistency: Practice the best routine that will help meet your child’s needs and is doable for the sitter when you are away. Have the sitter use the same routines and methods that you use. If every night your child takes a bath at 8:00, brushes his teeth at 8:30 and then reads before sleep, the same routine should happen on sitter nights. If you use alternative communication systems with your child, so should your sitter. Collaborating with your babysitter will help maintain your child’s schedule, thus preventing any unnecessary excitement or distress.
Finding the right match for your family is important. You can enhance the experience for your child with autism by exploring various options, transitioning slowly, and working with your sitter to reinforce routines and habits that work for your child and your whole family. For more information on this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.
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