Quick Tips to Equip the Babysitter for Your Special Needs Child

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My first interaction with a special needs child was over twelve years ago as the babysitter of a sweet little boy with Down Syndrome. Since then, “special needs” has evolved into a politically correct umbrella term for a plethora of things that, well…are not always easy to define. So when I was recently placed in a position of assisting a young man with an undisclosed special need, I began to wonder: how do you prepare a babysitter to meet the needs of a special needs child?

I do not assume that parents of little ones with special needs trap themselves at home and never enjoy date night, guy’s/girl’s night out or other social experiences. I do, however, believe that they are careful, if not more than a parent of a child without special needs, about who watches their child. So, as someone who takes caring for others very seriously, I suggest the following when bringing on board a new babysitter, volunteer or caregiver.

Be Honest

If you are uncomfortable about your child’s well-being while you are away, there is nothing wrong with admitting this. Also, if your child presents anything that could be deemed challenging—regardless of if you refer to this challenge as a special need or your child “just behaving like a kid”—being honest about this helps your helper effectively manage their interactions. In fact, sharing this information upfront sets the next healthy ground rule.

Lay Down the Law
Little Susie’s bedtime is at 7:45pm ever night, even if the sun is still up? Sure! And you prefer three text message updates on little Bobby while you’re out? Not a problem. Laying ground rules before leaving home sets a standard that your helper must adhere to in order to maintain your trust. This is especially important if your child has allergies or medications that must be administered. Do not tell yourself that you’re being too abrasive about these things either—this is your child.

It Will Be Okay
Now that you have shared the important information, made it to the car, and had a small meltdown, take a deep breath and know that everything will be okay. Although accidents can happen, knowing to dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency is ingrained in most people’s psyche if something happens.

You’re a great parent and your child is the sparkle in your eye. Make sure that your helper understands that your special needs child only “special” need is extra love and care!

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