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Choosing an Autism Babysitter: 10 Things to Consider

December 19, 2023

An autism babysitter could be an excellent option for parents who need to know that their child’s special needs are being met. Finding quality child care, whether at a child care center or home, can be challenging when parents seek candidates to meet their child’s needs.

A child’s development and safety are of utmost importance, and any potential caregiver should know and have experience in different aspects. Those aspects will differ depending on the child’s specific needs and how they should be met.

To make this decision easier, we’ve created a list of 10 things that will help you find the right autism babysitter. For more parenting advice, download your free guide here:

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1. Look for Knowledge and Experience

When it comes to working with autistic children in any capacity, there are special circumstances that should be taken into account. Although autism is considered a cognitive, social/emotional, and behavioral spectrum disorder, there are different challenges to consider based on the needs of the autistic person.

When a person works with children with autism, it is important for them to:

  • have experience with autism
  • have knowledge and training in different ways of communication and behavior challenges 
  • understand sensory processing disorder and the sensory systems 
  • know how to handle sensory disturbances
  • know about any specific needs the child has and how to fulfill them 
  • stay with the child at all times
  • learn how to engage with an autistic child that will be both beneficial and fun for the child and babysitter

The best way caregivers can keep up with the child and whether there have been any changes is by maintaining open and clear communication with the child’s parents. Knowing what their child is doing builds trust between parents and the caregiver. 

2. Is the Babysitter Autism-Savvy?

Parents can feel overwhelmed with the many babysitting options available. Knowing that a babysitting candidate has specialized training with autism can help alleviate that.

For the child’s overall well-being, it’s best to find a caregiver who:

  • has specialized training in special education
  • has training in behavior challenges
  • has worked with children with special needs

The caregiver could also be an excellent knowledge resource for the parents and other family members.

3. The Skills of a High-Quality Autism Babysitter

  • Clear and concise communication skills: when working with autistic children, clear and concise communication is necessary for the child’s overall well-being, especially when the caregiver understands both verbal and nonverbal and can adjust according to the child’s needs
  • Experience with autistic and special needs kids: Candidates with experience working with special needs children can provide the service and support the child may need.
  • Ability to adapt and be flexible: candidates who can be adaptive and flexible will be able to respond to what a child enjoys, their preferences, as well as any sensitivities  they may have
  • Having patience and understanding: this can help the babysitter create a more positive and nourishing environment for the child

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4. Where to Find a Potential Babysitting Candidate

Parents can talk to family members, friends, and members of the autism community about who they would recommend for a potential caregiver. It is helpful if they have had first-hand experience with the individual and know how they work with special needs kids.

If parents are new to an area or don’t know people in the autism community, they can check online resources. There are caregiver-specific websites with search criteria for autism babysitters or other caregivers that specialize in autistic and special needs children.

5. Getting Ready For the Interview

It is recommended that parents have a list of questions ready to ask the candidate during the interview process.

These questions could be based on:

  • what experiences the candidate has had when caring for an autistic child,
  • what they do when behavioral issues happen,
  • whether they have any first aid or CPR training and certification, 
  • what experiences they have had with different sensory needs.

Another aspect that parents could consider would be to prepare when-if questions that would be specific to their child.

One example could be to ask the candidate what they would do if the child were to hit and scratch themselves because they were told they couldn’t sit on the cat. 

If the parents feel secure with the candidate, they could set up a time for the babysitter to watch the child while a parent is doing chores around the house or yard. 

That way, the parent is close enough to see how the child and caregiver interact. They can provide support and gauge whether the candidate is the right person for the job.

6. Background Checks and Checking Out References

This step would be great after initially talking to the potential caregiver and having them return for a trial visit to see how they interact with the child. Numerous agencies provide detailed background checks for varying reasons.

Engaging with references, preparing a list of questions, and discussing the candidate’s previous experiences are essential steps in ensuring the safety and reliability of the individual.

Keeping children safe is a key factor. Going through quality background checks and talking to references are important.

7. Talking About the Child and Their Specific Needs

When a candidate has been chosen, the parents can open a conversation about the child that includes:

  • their strengths
  • opportunities for growth
  • sensory sensitivities
  • specific care instructions or a detailed care plan
  • what is expected if there’s an emergency, including the contact information
Choosing an Autism Babysitter: 10 Things to Consider
https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/choosing-autism-babysitter/

This conversation is essential in the hiring process because it sets up expectations and a care plan so that overall well-being and health are central. It also helps set the babysitter up for success, realistic goals, and an outlined plan to ensure important factors are not missed.

8. The Benefits of a Transition and Trial Period

A transition period can help ease the stress during a change, like a parent working or changing caregivers. This is when one or both parents are still around, providing support if necessary.

During this time, the parents can also see how the caregiver interacts with their child, handles different situations, and whether they are the good fit the family was hoping for.

The parents can slowly start leaving for more extended periods as everyone becomes more comfortable. 

This gentler approach can be beneficial and less stressful for everyone.

9. Conversation is the Key to Relationship

It is so important that parents provide all necessary contact information in case of emergencies. The main contact between parents and the babysitter is crucial to address any questions or concerns.

Parents occasionally check in to see how everyone is doing, whether changes may be initiated, or other aspects that can ensure the child’s well-being. If adjustments or any upcoming changes are needed, the open dialogue helps keep the conversation going.

10. Can You Trust This Babysitter? 

When it comes to finding the right autism babysitter, the peace of mind and knowledge that their child is being cared for is what parents can hope for. A good caregiver’s impact on the overall well-being, development, and growth is immeasurable and has lasting effects on the child and family.

Choosing an Autism Babysitter: 10 Things to Consider
https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/choosing-autism-babysitter/

FAQs

Q: Is it hard to babysit autistic kids?

A: Babysitting autistic kids can be challenging as it often involves managing unique behaviors and understanding their individual needs. However, with patience, empathy, and proper knowledge, it can also be a rewarding experience.

Q: What makes an autistic child happy?

A: Like everyone else, kids with autism respond well to praise when they do something good. Be specific about what you liked about their behavior to make them feel good and understand what they did well.

Q: What challenges do you face when taking care of someone with autism?

A: Handling difficult behaviors, like meltdowns and aggression, is among the most challenging aspects of babysitting a child with autism. Children on the spectrum may exhibit negative behaviors for various reasons, such as struggling to understand the changes in the world around them.

Q: What do autism caregivers do?

A: Autism caregivers support and assist individuals with autism, addressing their unique needs and challenges. They may engage in activities such as therapy sessions, facilitating social interactions, and implementing strategies to enhance the well-being of those under their care.

Q: What should autism caregivers not do?

A: Clear expectations are crucial for caregivers of children with autism. Understanding the antecedents and consequences of the child’s behaviors is essential, and setting appropriate expectations, rather than expecting too little, contributes to effective caregiving.

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2023). Finding a Sitter: Tips for Parents. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-and-child-care/Pages/finding-a-sitter.aspx

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. (n.d.). Selecting a safe and suitable childcare provider. Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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