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How to choose a caregiver for your Autistic child

Caring for a child with autism can be a real joy. While every child is unique, children with autism are especially so. Despite what so many people learn from the media, autism can mean a broad range of traits. When you’re looking for someone to babysit your autistic child, the most essential point is that you find someone who appreciates your child’s uniqueness.

When you’re looking for a babysitter, keep the 5 C’s in mind - Credentials, Child Centered, Caring, Connection and Care Plan.

● Credentials

Don’t take any chances - when looking for a babysitter, choose someone who has past experience working with special needs and preferably autistic individuals.

The Autism Society of North Carolina holds a summer camp for those with autism, and often hires camp counselors who don’t have previous experience working with people with special needs. Before working with campers, these new counselors get intensive training and real world, guided experiences with people with autism. In addition, first year counselors are closely supervised and mentored during their time, until they can demonstrate that they are comfortable and able to put their campers at ease, in addition to keeping them safe (each counselor is in charge of one or two campers for a week’s time). This intense training and management of people new to autism caregiving has been developed over years of It’s a mistake to leave your child in an unsupervised setting with a new person who’s not got experience. While it may be tempting to choose someone who has a background in babysitting without additional work with special needs or autistic individuals, remember that they’d be learning on the job, and that job is caring for your child and keeping them safe.

● Child Centered

You want someone who will interact with your child on their level, wherever that is, and to engage with them in meaningful ways. Adapting to the changing needs of your child is an essential quality to find in a caregiver. Especially when working with children who are going to be thrown out of their comfort zone as there is a schedule or location change, babysitters must be completely focused on what’s going on with that child, in that moment, in order to make the experience as smooth and easy for them as possible. Childcare that runs off of a preconceived notion of what a “typical” autistic individual is and then attempts to mold your child into their box of behaviors will only lead to problems. Good caregivers are those who truly let go of their expectations.

● Caring

This one seems to go without saying, but it’s worth saying it anyway. In order for a babysitter to work well with your child, they must be empathic and caring, patient and kind. When working with autistic individuals, the most successful caregivers have a level of caring that is palpable - and this shows to even the most socially challenged autistic individual. If a person isn’t truly caring, then they are likewise unlikely to have the patience and kindness that is often needed when working with those on the spectrum.

● Connection

When choosing a babysitter, you will want to find someone with which you and your child can form a long term relationship. Look for caregivers who wish to stick with this relationship for the long haul, which will lessen your stress and that of your child. There are certain people who work best with autistic individuals, and these people are captivated by the amazing way with which people with autism experience the world.

People who really love working with special needs individuals get “hooked” on it or wash out very quickly. This goes back to the first “C”, credentials. You want someone who has found that connection with special needs childcare. Long term relationships allow your child to get comfortable and for you to gain peace of mind. The whole reason for all of this is for you to be able to focus on something else for a short period of time, which you can’t do if you’re worried about your child. Creating a long term connection with a childcare provider will allow you and your child to build trust.

You and your child need to meet with the babysitter prior to leaving them alone together. By doing this you can see how your child reacts to the caregiver, and how they react to your child.

● Care Plan

The final thing that you should do is to have a detailed care plan for your child and to share it with your babysitter. Depending on the needs of your child, your care plan may need to be extensive, and be sure to include relevant emergency information, communication needs, entertainment preferences, food preferences and details about boundaries. You might also ask your caregiver to leave you feedback after a babysitting session and add that to your care plan for future reference. Make a copy of your care plan if possible and leave it with your nanny or sitter when you first meet them, so that they have time to closely review it and request any information that they might need. Or go over it in person prior to leaving them with your child.

You are the expert on your child, and you’ll know whether a sitter fits well. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed when parenting a special needs child, and you need someone who When you are looking for a nanny or a babysitter you’re entrusting your amazing child to what at first amounts to a stranger. But by looking for the 5 C’s of autism childcare, you can choose a caregiver who will be best for you and your family.