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Finding a babysitter for a child with Down syndrome

Leaving your child with special needs at home while you head out is never easy. Even if it’s only for dinner, you have to trust that the person you leave them with is capable to care for them. While many caregivers may seem up to the job, there are some key things you should look for, and specific questions you should ask before hiring anyone. When you’ve found a person you think is right for the job, make sure to set aside some time to talk with them before having them watch your child.

Experience

Hiring a young person without any experience may lead to them quickly becoming overwhelmed. When considering the perfect caregiver, you’ll want someone who is experienced and has logged long hours watching a variety of ages and abilities. When you hire a person with more experience, they have likely been through many different scenarios, and even though nothing will probably happen, you need to make sure they are up to the task if something were to occur. Whether it’s a temper tantrum or difficulty eating, you need to know the person you’ve left your child with can take charge of any situation in the best way possible.

If this person hasn’t watched a child with special needs, pay attention to how they speak and interact with them. If they are overly loud or seem too energetic, it may end up causing some children stress. Key traits for watching children with special needs are being mild mannered and caring, which all children respond to.

Time and Energy

Children with special needs require more time to do things and this can result in the caregiver needing to have more energy and stamina.

Safety

Since some children with Down Syndrome have issues with eating, it is important to hire a caregiver who understands to give them plenty of time to eat. They will need to pay special attention during mealtimes and watch for choking, which can be common in children with Down Syndrome. If you have an infant, be sure to explain how their muscles don’t develop at the same rate as other children, so sucking on a bottle can take much longer than is typical for other infants. Great patience can be an excellent trait.

Since some children with Down Syndrome like to wander if left alone, it is important to reviews safety precautions, such as locking doors and windows when inside. Explain any other safety concerns within the home, everything from in the kitchen to in the bathroom.

Personal Care

It’s important to ask any potential caregiver if they are comfortable with helping the child with personal hygiene, whether it’s after eating or after using the restroom. This is an important point to discuss since accidents can and do happen.

Other Characteristics

Since the majority of children with Down Syndrome are very happy, it would be good to match them with a person who exhibits the same loving, happy outlook.

Questions to ask a potential caregiver for a Down syndrome child

It is always a good idea to ask a lot of questions, including why the person would like to watch a child with special needs. This single question can give you great insight into who they are as a person. Some people have big hearts and love all children, while others may hope it pays better than normal babysitting jobs. You’ll know instinctively which person to choose.

You will also want to get references from this person and call them. Knowing how others feel about their services can help to ease any worries you may have about leaving your child with someone besides a family member. Ask whether or not they are CPR and/or First Aid certified and ask to see their cards verifying the information. It is crucial for a caregiver watching your child to know basic first aid, especially the Heimlich maneuver for children with Down syndrome.

Another good idea is to give the potential candidate specific scenarios to see how they respond. For example, ask them what they would do if they were at the park with your child and the child began to cry uncontrollably. You can come up with many different types of scenarios that may be specific to your individual child and situation. The more you know about the person at the start, the more comfortable you’ll feel.

As in any situation, make sure to listen to your gut instinct. If you feel any type of concern or aren’t sure about someone, it would be better to keep looking and find someone you feel would be the perfect match. Don’t hesitate to have your child with you at the interview to see how the person interacts with them. When you take the time upfront to make sure you’ve chosen the right person, it will pay off in the long run and can make all the difference in providing you with some much needed adult time away from home.