Recently, I wrote a post with tips for finding a babysitter. You can read it here. However, if you have a child with special needs it can add a little more to your to-do list when it comes to finding a compatible and capable babysitter. A special set of skills, a certain personality type, and experience from the babysitter/caregiver is needed when it comes to children with special needs. Here are my 11 tips for finding a babysitter for a special needs child.
11 Tips for Finding a Babysitter for a Special Needs Child
1. Be easy on yourself.
Realize that it is ok to want a break. It doesn’t reflect badly on you as a parent to admit that you need a breather. I know that it might be harder on you to admit because as a parent of a special needs child you probably feel even more responsibility for your child. However, taking a moment for yourself can actually make you a better parent and allow your child the chance to build independence and trust in someone other than you and/or your spouse.
2. Use your family and friends.
My first tip would be to use family and friends. It is easier and would ease your mind if you are able to get someone that you and your child already knows and trusts. Some examples:
- Teachers at school, if your child attends school.
- Other parents.
- If your child sees a therapist, ask them if they have any recommendations.
- Family and friends.
3. Find a reputable website.
If you can’t find someone you already know and trust, then the next step would be to find a reputable website. This can be anxiety-inducing. However, keep in mind that some websites have a great reputation and run extensive background checks. For example, care.com and sittercity.com have babysitters that have experience with special needs children.
However, it is still a good idea to interview and check their references on your own time.
4. Write out what matters most to you in a sitter.
I am a visual person so it helps me to write down exactly what I need. You and your spouse should sit down and discuss what matters most to you in a sitter. Write down what you guys agree on so that you can refer back to this list when you are trying to make a final decision.
Don’t keep the needs of your child a secret. This is huge. I know it might seem silly to mention this, but it has been known to happen. This will only set your babysitter up for failure. Preparation is the key.
5. Complete an extensive screening process.
Whether the potential babysitter was recommended by a family member or friend or if you found them online, you need to complete an extensive screening process.
You can find details on doing a background check here.
6. Trust your mommy instincts.
I know I say this in a lot of my posts, but it is worth saying again. Trust your mommy instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, even if you can’t verbalize it, move along. Start looking for someone else if it doesn’t feel right. You know your child, and you know when something is right for them.
7. Two part interview process.
A. Public Interview
I like to use a two-step interview process. The first step is to set up a public interview. You can meet at a restaurant or coffee shop. I like the idea of keeping the first meeting public and kid-free. This way if you just don’t think it will be a fit then you didn’t get your home or children involved. Here are some questions you should/could ask:
- How much do you charge?
- What do you look for in an employer?
- Do you live nearby?
- Do you have a car or reliable form of transportation?
- What are your views on discipline?
- Are you looking to babysit for a family long term?
- How do you deal with fussy babies?
- How would you handle a situation where the children refuse to go to bed?
- Tell me about a difficult babysitting situation you’ve faced and how you handled/resolved it?
- How many families have you babysat for? How old were their kids?
However, parents with special needs children should also ask questions focused on their child’s’ specific needs. Here are some examples:
- What kind of experience do you have working with kids with learning and attention issues?
- Too much activity and noise can be upsetting to my child. What quiet activities do you like to do with kids?
- There are certain strategies I use when my child becomes upset. If I talk you through these strategies, can I count on you to use them?
- My child is on medication. Do you have any experience helping kids take medicine?
B. In-Home Interview
The next step would be to set up an in-home interview. If the first interview went well and you didn’t see any red flags then I think you should set up an in-home interview. This will give you the chance to see how the babysitter will react to being in your environment. Above all, this will give you the chance to see how they will interact with your children. You really want someone that enjoys children and seems excited to go to work and spend time with your kids.
8. Prepare yourself.
You should prepare yourself for the possibility of needing to pay more money or pay for more training. Be prepared to adjust your rate based on a number of duties that fall outside of standard child care. The truth of the matter is you pay for what you get. If you want higher quality care, you need to be ready to pay more.
Because special needs caregivers/babysitters are harder to find you should also be aware that you might need to pay for more training. For example, if you find someone that you really click with and that connects with your child, but doesn’t have all the training you would like them to have then think about sending them for more training. Think of it this way, it is a cheap price to pay for a little extra peace of mind.
9. Once you have made a choice.
Once you have made your choice, leave instructions and start small. Starting small allows time for you and your child to get used to a new person being in the home and builds confidence and trust. Also, make sure to leave detailed instructions on how they can provide the best care for your child with special needs. You can never give too much information when it comes to special needs child support. If your children have any allergies or have to take certain medicines then make sure you leave detailed instructions for that as well.
10. Plan for emergencies.
Preparation is important to remember when it comes to a special needs child. Plan for emergencies and be sure to prep you caregiver/babysitter for medical or behavioral emergencies. Provide a list of emergency contacts that can come give aid if a situation arises and the babysitter isn’t able to soothe the child. Non-emergency contacts should be provided, as well, such as your child’s pediatrician, other family members, and friends.
11. Last tid bits of advice.
Take your time when making a decision. You want to make the right decision. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you make a decision:
- Does the caregiver’s style align with my parenting style?
- Are they trained in CPR and first aid?
- Can the person follow my child’s routine?
- Is the caregiver trained on communicating with a special needs child?
- Encourage open communication
- Medical needs trump other duties, such as washing dishes and cleaning up messes.
In conclusion, this might sound overwhelming. However, if you get lucky and find someone that wants a longterm job then you won’t have to do this each time you want to go out. Plus, knowing you put this much effort into finding the right babysitter will help give you a little peace of mind while you are away from your children. Bottom line, have faith in your child and your instincts. I hope you find these 11 Tips for Finding a Babysitter for a Special Needs Child useful.
Do you have any tips for finding a babysitter for a special needs child? I would love to read about them in the comments.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31