You agreed to babysit a child with special needs……now what? Babysitting any child that you are unfamiliar with can be a challenge initially, but going into the situation prepared and knowing what to expect will make the experience a positive one for everyone involved.
Prior to babysitting a child with special needs:
Do your homework: Learn as much as you can about the child and her disability. If she has a diagnosis that you are unfamiliar with, find as much information as you can.
Meet the child: If possible, meet the child prior to the babysitting day. Observe how the parents interact with her, and what she enjoys doing. This is also a good opportunity for her to get familiar with you.
ASK QUESTIONS! You need to go into the situation feeling comfortable and prepared.
Some basic questions you should ask parent include before babysitting a child with special needs:
- How does your child communicate?
- Does your child have any medical needs?
- Are there any safety concerns?
- Does your child have any dietary restrictions or allergies?
- Are there any behavioral issues? If so, how should they be addressed?
- Does your child have any physical limitations?
- Does your child take any medication? If so, have the parents demonstrate the proper way to administer the medication.
- What is reinforcing to your child? What are some favorite toys and activities?
Tips for babysitting a child with special needs:
- If the parents follow a certain routine with the child, stick to that routine as much as possible.
- Think of a variety of activities that you can do with her during your time with her to avoid boredom. If you are having trouble thinking of activities, ask the parents for ideas.
- For transitions such as going from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity, use pre-transitional warnings (ex: you have 2 minutes left before it is time to clean up).
- Keep your language simple, and give clear and concise directions.
- Remain calm during challenging times. If she is getting upset or having a tantrum, and she see’s you becoming upset as well, her behavior is likely to escalate.
- Have reasonable expectations. You don’t want to let children get away with not following through with demands, however, take into consideration any limitations she may have before placing the demand.
- Follow the child’s lead. If she is having fun spinning in circle, spin in circles with her and then make a game out of it. If she prefers sitting quietly alone, do not push her to interact with you.
- Most importantly, have fun!
For other tips on getting started with babysitting, click here to review our previous blog: A Beginning Babysitter’s Guide – Getting Started.