Finding a dependable, trustworthy and compassionate sitter is challenging enough for the parents of typically developing children. But for parents of children with medical, psychological, behavioral or intellectual disabilities, it can feel like a monumental task. But don’t give up! It’s vitally important that parents — especially parents caring for children with special needs—have time to refuel. Here are some tips for finding a capable caregiver:
Lean on loved ones
When trustworthy friends and family members who know, and love, your child offer to chip in, assume that their offers are genuine and accept the help. Prior to leaving them in charge, make sure they receive any training and resources they may need to ensure that the experience goes smoothly.
Try local grad school students
Students getting graduate degrees in special education, occupational therapy, physical therapy and nursing, may all be interested in gaining hands-on experience. Not only are these candidates likely to have knowledge and expertise, they may also be up on the latest therapies and behavioral techniques. Contact local colleges and universities to see if they can connect you to available students.
Summer camps for children with disabilities are pretty much guaranteed to have staffs trained in handling children with special needs. You can rest assured that your child is getting great care while having fun, making friends and learning new skills. It’s a win-win! For a guide to camps for children with special needs, visit very special camps.com.
Respite care services
Respite care entails entrusting your child to a qualified caregiver on a regular or emergency basis so that you can meet other responsibilities, or just take a much-needed break. According to Care.com, respite care can mean “overnight care, day programs, summer camps, ‘respitality’ (weekends away for caregiving parents) and personal care assistance.” You can find respite resources through organizations such as Care.com, ARCH National Respite Network, and local branches of ARC, Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy as well as hospitals and government agencies. Though respite care can be expensive, it is possible to obtain financial assistance. Find out if your state has a program that offers financial aid. Says Kids Health Nemours: “Most children with special needs qualify for home and community-based Medicaid waivers that can cover the cost of respite care.” Be aware that many of these programs have extensive waiting lists, so apply as early as possible.
Start a Parent Co-op
Parents of children with special needs can create a system where they take turns caring for one and other’s children. For example, says Kids Health from Nemours, “For example, you can take someone else’s child for one day or evening a month, and that person can do the same for you. Support groups for families with your child’s condition are a good place to meet other families.”