#BabySitting Tips: Caring For Children With Special Care

 

If you are willing or volunteering to provide specialized babysitting and respite care for children with special needs and you feel overwhelmed, do not panic. Even experienced babysitters and teachers of special needs kids sometimes feel a little intimidated at that thought.

Here are some tips that you might find helpful when looking after kids with Autism and ADHD:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADHD often have lots of energy and can get wound up quickly. Their attention span for activities might be shorter than that of other children, so plan many activities and use them as needed.

Important To Know:

  • Children with ADHD are often quite creative. They may enjoy drawing pictures or building with blocks.

  • Active, outdoor games can be fun for children with ADHD. Try activities like hopscotch, swinging, and jumping rope. But skip the playground if it’s close to bedtime.

  • Wind down with quiet time at bedtime. Low-key activities, including watching a movie or sitting in a rocking chair and reading a book, can help all kids calm down for the night.

  • If the child needs to take medication while you’re babysitting, make sure the parents explain the dosage to you. If it’s possible, ask parents if you can watch them giving the medication a couple of times. Find out what time you should be giving the medication (or helping the child take it).

  • Be specific with your directions. To make sure kids with ADHD have listened and understood you, ask them to repeat the directions back to you.

  • Know how to deal with difficulties: It might help to provide the child with a schedule of what you’ll be doing, especially if your visit is lengthy. Children with ADHD sometimes have trouble switching gears. That means playing a boisterous game of tag right before naptime might not work. If you know some calming strategies and have activities prepared for your visit, you and the child can relax and enjoy yourselves.

Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that makes it hard to communicate or interact with other people. Some kids have autism that is mild; others have autism that is severe. Children with autism can have trouble understanding subtle directions and requests. They may become overwhelmed by busy and noisy environments. And, sometimes, they do not enjoy being touched. Because every kid is different, ask the child’s parents what to expect and what kinds of things the child enjoys doing.

Important To Know:

  • Follow the child’s routine, especially at bedtime or mealtime. Kids with autism prefer structure and can get upset if routines are different from what they’re used to.

  • Ask the parents about the child’s favorite toys so you can play with them. Go slowly. One tactic is to sit alongside the child and mimic his play. That might attract his attention and lead him to join you.

  • Special toys can help you encourage the child to cooperate. For example, you might say, “If you brush your teeth, you can play with your toy car.”

  • Don’t be offended if the child decides to play alone or limits interactions with you. This is part of the disorder.

  • Maintain a calm environment. For example, skip a trip to the playground when you know a neighborhood gathering is likely there. Avoid bringing your friends or other people the child may not know into the home.

  • Go slowly when it comes to physical contact. Find out from the parents how their child reacts to affection. A quick hug or light tickle could set off a child with autism.

  • Know how to deal with difficulties: Ask the parents how to handle it if the child becomes upset or agitated. In general, as long as the child isn’t hurting himself or anyone else, it’s best to roll with the tantrum. Keep the child safe and close to you. If the child starts to settle down, you might bring out a favorite toy and start playing with it to create a distraction. Some children with autism might calm down when cuddling a special stuffed animal. Others might respond well to sitting in a rocking chair with you or swinging on the backyard swing set.

Remember…

Children with special needs can be very sweet and loving. And it’s great babysitting experience to learn how to care for kids who have different abilities. Seeing the world through a special child’s eyes can change the way you look at life!

-ADAPTED

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