Being a special needs parent has its own unique challenges. One of the biggest ones is taking time for yourself and or with your significant other. In order to do this comes a different challenge, and that is needing a babysitter.
Something many special needs parents ask about is a babysitter who has experience with children who require extra care. Parents, naturally, will require a certain amount of experience and qualifications from the sitter. There will be a meet and greet and references checked and an interview.
The reason for this is that watching a child with special needs is not a straightforward or simple job.
There is quite a bit more that goes into it. So, I wanted to share some of my experience and what I have heard from others who have gone through the process of finding the right sitter.
It is very hard to trust someone outside of your family to watch your child. Even with close friends you still hesitate. The reason is that sometimes it takes little to nothing to trigger a meltdown or tantrum. Not everyone is prepared for these, and a fear of many parents like myself is someone reacting negatively. There is also the anxiety that comes with having a special needs child running and hiding or getting into something he should not. Emmett, for example, has ninja skills when he wants to. You have to keep one eye on him at all times and make sure every door is locked and secured. The fear of not knowing what could happen is one reason many parents just decide to wait to go out to do anything without their child.
I am here to encourage parents to find the sitter that is right for you.
There are several groups devoted to special needs children and sitters who are more than qualified. That is how I found mine. There are social media groups, along with some babysitting apps, that allow you to specify that you have a child with special needs. I have met with potential sitters, and, to be honest, my situation was not a good fit for some of them or us. Trust your gut there.
I do talk to them before the first meeting. I let them know about Emmett, and I let them know about our living arrangements and about our pets. Also, I ask that they have been around special needs children. This is very important to me. It is one thing to say yes you know about autism and you are going to school or have read up on it. It is something completely different to be around it and witness the many challenges. The old saying is true that if you have met one autistic child, congratulations you have met one. The spectrum is completely wide and there are many aspects to it.
One thing I make a point of doing is having my mom home for the first time I have someone new there.
This is so that if she needs to step in for whatever reason, she can. I would suggest this to other parents, too. Be at home but not in eyesight. This lets everyone get comfortable with each other. You never know if a situation will arise that will need your assistance. This also allows you to do a “healthy goodbye” (as I was suggested to do), in order to lessen the trauma of your child seeing you leave. A “healthy goodbye” lets them know everything is okay and you will see them soon.
Let me also clarify that while we live with my mom, it is not her job to babysit my children. It IS her job to spoil them rotten and get all the snuggles and love, which she absolutely does! A sitter is for me to get the occasional break that, as a single mom, is often hard to come by (for both myself and my mom). I am sure it is very noticeable that I am definitely a momma’s girl.
I would suggest talking to other parents of special needs children about who they would recommend. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and that, in combination with looking on social media and the different apps, will allow you to find the perfect fit. Once again, I cannot stress enough to do a face-to-face visit, check references, and have them come to your home for a trial run. This is MY personal opinion, but I have heard from other parents that this, too, is something they recommend.