Your special needs child requires a babysitter who not only cares for everyday needs, but also is familiar with specific medical procedures and/or medication administration.
In addition to many online babysitter finder resources, such as Care.com, UrbanSitter.com, and SitterCity.com, thinking locally and about your child’s specific needs is important. You may even find a local organization that offers babysitters specifically for special needs children.
For example, if your child requires specialty care for asthma, diabetes, or a tracheostomy, you may wish to reach out to your local university’s health programs, such as nursing, pre-med, or physical therapy schools. Even high school students can be members of health occupation societies that could make them a good fit.
If your child has special needs related to learning, such as ADHD or oppositional defiance disorder, contacting area schools or a university’s psychology department also may help you find the right babysitter who is well-versed in your child’s condition.
Does a babysitter need special qualifications?
When you have a special needs child, finding a babysitter who is CPR-certified is important, especially if you perceive your child is at greater risk for health concerns. First aid training and even babysitting training courses may also help.
Sometimes a babysitter’s best qualifications come from real-life experience. Your babysitter may have acted as a caregiver for family members with special needs or has previous experience in caring for children with special needs. You can ask how comfortable the sitter is with any special procedures or routines your child has on a daily basis. While you can certainly offer training in caring for your child’s unique needs, it’s fair to ask babysitters what their basic understanding is of a particular special needs condition and willingness to learn.
How you can help
As the parent or caregiver to a special needs child, you know the value of organization and routine. Help your babysitter maintain this routine and equip him or her with tools for success by ensuring you do the following:
- Explain how the condition affects your child. Are there troubleshooting methods you have found when your child gets frustrated, agitated or tearful? Share these.
- Spend time working with your child alongside their new caregiver. Observe them interacting with the child, assessing their problem and giving medications, if that will be required.
- Leave a list of your child’s medications and any safety considerations. Even if your babysitter is not administering medications, this information could be important in an emergency.
- Give the sitter an easy way to contact you with questions or concerns that might arise. Write out clear instructions for medication delivery, including: name, amount, and time of day.
While it’s great to have a babysitter who has a significant body of knowledge related to a particular condition, remember that it’s important for you to give any caregiver the tools to succeed.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, November 2019
- CPR and First Aid training are important for babysitters. Look for ones that may have additional medical training beyond basic skills.
- Local universities, professional organizations and the Internet are all places to find a special needs babysitter. Pediatricians also can help you find local resources.
- Be prepared to offer advice, training and education on caring for your child. Don’t leave your child until both you and the sitter are totally comfortable.
I love the suggestion here about contacting schools to find teachers who are familiar with your child’s condition. Many teachers do babysit on nights and weekends, or can recommend great resources for your family. Another place to look is your community support group. Often, friends whose children have the same needs as yours may have a great babysitter to recommend.