Hire a Sitter
Hiring a Babysitter You can Trust for Your Child With Special Needs
There are many differences in a family with special needs. One of the biggest differences is the lack of flexibility to leave the house to go on a date whenever possible. Most parents at some point have to go through the dreaded “we need to find a babysitter” conversation. Having a child with special needs adds a whole other layer of anxiety and nervousness about leaving the house. Here are some tips about how to approach this sometimes nerve-wracking process:
- Use reputable sources for hiring- Sometimes this is easy-- a friend of a friend or a relative-- and sometimes more challenging-- a formal interview and getting to know a trust someone who starts as a stranger. There are many helpful websites to hire a reputable sitter and Fatherly.com rates 9 apps/sites that will help you hire someone safely. Care.com and sittercity.com are just a few and have options for filtering applicants by credentials, thus allowing you to search for someone with experience in special education or children with special needs. Whether using a sourcing website or friend’s recommendation, you should always ask for background checks when hiring someone to come into your home.
- Talk to other families- Poll other families and network to get a sense of who others are using. Always express to a shared sitter that you do not want to interfere with the original arrangement between the sitter and a friend, but having back-ups is always helpful.
- Check with local community colleges- Most community colleges have an employment board (electronic or physical). Make sure the community college you are targeting has an education program, and more specifically, a special education program.
- Spring for a “get to know you” date- Once you’ve gone through the hiring process, before making it official, bring in the most promising candidates (at separate times) for a “getting to know you” session so that you can observe and see if your child and the sitter have a connection.
- Create a cheat sheet- Importantly, list emergency phone numbers and contacts other than yourself and preferably someone in the neighborhood who could respond quickly in case of emergency. List triggers, preferences, and routines. Verbal instruction can be overwhelming and so a quick reference sheet can be helpful.
- Consider a social story for your child- Using pictures or words and pictures, create a short story for your son or daughter with information about your return, what they should do while you’re gone, and any information you can share about the sitter.
- Set up everyone for success- Whenever possible, choose a time of day that is easier for your child and his/her happiest time of the day. Arrange your outing or date to be at a time that avoids harder times (such as bedtime) for the first few times. This will create a more reinforcing time for the sitter and your child, thus pairing the time as a positive experience.
It is important to take time for yourself or you and your spouse. Raising children is tiring and breaks are crucial in making sure you don’t burn out. Hiring someone who is highly qualified will take time, but will be worth your time. This person will never do the job of raising your child like you do, but the breaks it will afford you will rejuvenate you to be able to be your best self when you have to be “on.”
Written by: Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.