Finding a Babysitter for Special Needs Kids

Posted June 3, 2010 by

This past weekend, Jerry and I took the boys to a hotel for what was supposed to be a single night; it turned into a four-day weekend. Our air conditioner broke and Jerry, because of health issues, cannot breathe in hot, humid weather. And I should mention that the air conditioner did more than break: it caught on fire. It was a small fire, but did a lot of damage to the unit. Here it is the fifth day and we are still waiting for the HVAC guy to finish the job he started. We ran out of “extra” money for a hotel but thankfully, after the tornadoes came through, the weather has cooled somewhat. But it got me to thinking: maybe Jerry and I should go to one by ourselves some night, and leave the kids at home.

I have always enjoyed staying at hotels. I usually go once a year for my birthday. All by myself. One full day and night away from everyone; I do not bring my laptop. I completely unplug from the world. Sometimes I just read trashy tabloids while soaking in the hot tub or watch Lifetime Movie Network films. Just… time to myself. This was more important when I was a single mom because I did not have a spouse to use to take a “time-out” when things got really stressful. Let’s face it: all moms and dads deserve that break once in a while. After all, if you don’t take care of the caretaker, he or she can’t care for anyone else.

My father used to be my babysitter. Now, we live in Oklahoma and 1,800 miles away from him. My mother and step-father live nearby now, but my mother’s health is failing and my kids are way “too much” for them to handle, unless they are already in bed and sleeping. And even then it might not work because my mother may not feel up to traveling to our house (my boys can’t stay at her house; they’d destroy it) and my stepfather cannot leave my mother for overnights. So now what?

The Key Ingredient: Patience
In the past, I have used churches to find a good babysitter. There is usually someone there known for their patience. That is the first thing I look for in a babysitter. Someone who is extremely patient and understanding, yet firm. You can’t be passive with my boys. James Lehman taught me that with children like mine, with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, the more passive you are, the more aggressive they become. The secretary of the church often knows who in the congregation would be looking for extra income opportunities.

Find Someone with a Teaching or Educational Background
I’ve also used my son’s teachers. They might know of an aide or other personnel in the school who could use a spot of cash every now and again. I know that these professionals will have already have had experience dealing with children in general and most likely difficult children as well. Or, one could ask a day care or early learning center as well. I have also used the bulletin boards at colleges nearby. Students studying early childhood education or child psychology make great babysitters. These students usually come built in with passion for caring for children and that is also something else you’d want in a babysitter.

Checking Out Online Services: The Pro’s and Con’s
Short of that, there are online services as well. Some make you pay and you don’t know if you’ll get a qualified person. Some pre-screen for you and just send one out on the night in question—you don’t get the chance to interview them first. Some do let you do your own screening as well. Then, too, there are respite care agencies nation-wide. These can be more expensive but they are qualified to deal with many medical and psychological issues that your child may have. To find a local agency near you, you can check out this website. It is a respite care agency locator and there are various options for search. Some of the respite care agencies offer special programs to help parents cover the cost of services partially or fully. This is the option we are currently looking into for ourselves.

While our four-day weekend encompassed Jerry’s 60th birthday and Mother’s Day, it was not as relaxing as it sounds. All four of us were crammed into the same room and the boys got bored easily. Thomas wanted to walk around the hotel’s floors because they were all balconies overlooking the interior lobby, in a circular pattern. Brandon wanted to go work out in the fitness room for hours at a time. Thomas wanted to keep buying snack food out of the vending machine and got really upset that it was so empty and “nothing good” was left. Brandon kept yelling at me and his father with this attitude, for no apparent reason. It would’ve been nice to just “get away” without them for awhile. I love them but I need a break! How about you?


Heather is a mom of two special needs children and has spent over a decade working with them and other children who present challenging behaviors. She has been writing for over 20 years.

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