When you have a child with special needs, finding a competent and reliable babysitter is difficult. Friends and family members will help you out, but there are occasions when you need someone else. Here are some tips to help you find a baby sitter for your special needs child.
Make a List of Your Requirements
Before you start your search for a babysitter for your special needs child make a list of what you want the babysitter to do and what type of person you are interested in.
- Do you want someone with children of his or her own?
- Would you prefer a student?
- How much experience do you want the sitter to have?
- Do you need someone with a car?
- Do you want your child watched in your home or at the sitters?
- How often will you need the child minder?
- How much can you pay?
- Will the sitter be an employee or independent contractor?
Figuring out your needs helps you focus on the types of applicants you want to interview and the questions you will ask them.
Get Recommendations for a Babysitter for Your Special Needs Child
One of the best methods for finding a babysitter is through recommendations from other parents of children with special needs. Also, ask for recommendations from teachers, special needs assistants, workers at crèches/day-care centers and your child’s health care providers.
Agency or Advertise
You can place an advertisement for a babysitter. In addition, depending on where you live, you may have access to an agency that specializes in caring for children with disabilities or special needs.
Check References of All Babysitters
No matter how you find your potential babysitter for your special needs child, you need to get references and check them. Most people will tell the names of people who will give them a positive recommendation. You will get more from these referees if you ask open-ended questions and push for specific answers. If the referee’s answer is vague or general, don’t say anything. Don’t be afraid to stay silent for a few seconds after the referee answers a question. During a conversation, some people feel awkward when there is silence and will start talking to break the silence. On these occasions, you may pick up some extra information
- Can you give me examples of why you think Jane is an excellent babysitter?
- What do your children like the best and least about Jane?
- Do you consider Jane reliable? Why?
- What “special needs” does your child have? How has Jane coped with these? Examples?
- Have you ever been called by your child while Jane was babysitting? What happened?
Keep in mind that whoever you decide will still need training specific to your child. Therefore, you want to find someone you can use more than once, as you will invest time training them. No matter how you find a potential babysitter you have to make sure they have a good understanding of your child’s issues and are a good fit.
Interview Prospective Child Minders
Personally interview each potential babysitter. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time and take notes. Include some hypothetical situations so you can assess the babysitter’s decision-making skills.
- Their experience
- Any formal training as a babysitter
- Knowledge of first aid/CPR
- Ask what they know about your child’s special needs. If your child has autism, ask what they know about autism.
- Find out if their availability suits your needs
- If your child will be going to their house, ask about activities, safety measures, number and ages of other children, pets, types of food and snacks, insurance
- Plan a visit to the crèche, day-care center or home if you are considering having your child minded there
- What they expect for pay
Assess Training Needs
Determine the level of experience candidate has with children who have special needs, and in particular your own child’s diagnosis. Then, make sure they understand your child’s symptoms and how to respond to them.
For example, if your child has autism, explain how autism affects your child. Make sure the sitter knows how to calm your child if he becomes upset, what triggers his meltdowns and any communication problems.
If your child has difficulty communicating, make sure you educate the sitter on what techniques you use. If your child uses assistive technology or other devices, make sure you familiarize the babysitter with these devices.
Find Out How They Interact with Your Child
Ask the potential babysitter to spend an hour or so with your child while you are present so you can see how they interact. Use this time to play a board game or go to a playground – you want an activity that requires interaction between your child and the babysitter. Assuming this time goes well, schedule a time for real babysitting.
Do a Trial Run
The first time you leave your child alone with the babysitter should be for a short 1 to 1 1/2 hour break. Go out for shopping or a meal – don’t go to far away. Think of this as a trial run. If anything goes wrong, you can be home in a few minutes.
Make Sure the Babysitter has Essential Information
- Emergency contact numbers
- Medical information
- Food or drug allergies
- List of what is allowed/not allowed (video games, TV, etc.)
- Description of calming/soothing techniques you use for your child
- Timetable of your child’s routine
Don’t overwhelm the babysitter with lots of information, prioritize what she needs to know.
Also, ask your child how he got along with the babysitter – what he liked or didn’t like.
How to Keep the Child Minder You Like
Assuming everything went well and you want to use this babysitter on a regular basis, treat her well. Remember to:
- Pay her well – your peace of mind is worth it
- If you cancel at the last-minute, pay your babysitter as she set aside her time for you
- Make sure you and the sitter have the same understanding of what she is allowed to do regarding having friends over, making phone calls, going on your computer, etc. while babysitting
- Be home on time and call your babysitter if you are running late
- Make sure your refrigerator isn’t empty – put a supply of snacks and drinks the sitter likes
- Make sure the sitter gets home safely
- Book your dates in advance
- Make sure your children know she is in charge when you are not there
- Treat her with respect and your children will to