A night out. A weekend away. A special occasion with one of your other children. There are times when you really, really need a babysitter for your child with special needs. But it has to be a babysitter who can handle him. Who knows about her health problems or behavioral struggles. Who will show good judgment when your child can't. Who will keep your child safe against long odds. That's not a job for the teen next door. Who ya gonna call? Here are 10 places to start your search.
1. Your familyThere may be many family members who you would no more trust with your child's needs than you would a stranger on the street. But if there is a sympathetic relative who has a rapport with your child, that may be a good place to look for child-sitting services. Don't take unfair advantage, but don't be afraid to ask.
2. Your close and trusted friendsWe're not talking about casual acquaintances here. A friend who is close to your family and your child may welcome an opportunity to spend some quality time. Besides taking care of your child-care emergencies, this is a good way to create deep bonds between your child and those surrogate "uncles" and "aunts."
3. Your child's schoolYoung teachers may be in the market for a little job on the side, and if there's one you particularly like, it may be worth asking, privately and in no way that jeopardizes anyone's job, whether there's any babysitting availability. Similarly, classroom aides may welcome a chance for some extra income.
4. Your child-care providerThe workers who handle your child's needs at a daycare, preschool, or after-school program would likely be able to do that in your home as well. If there's a worker you or your child particularly likes, find a discreet way to ask if they'd possibly be available for occasional babysitting.
5. Your therapistsMany school speech, occupational, and physical therapists are young, fresh from school, and paying off student loans. Although there may again be some conflict of interest in their seeing a child out of school, it doesn't hurt to check if they'd be interested in child-watching jobs over the summer if not during the school year.
6. Your house of worshipAsking around among members of your worship community may help you find out about experienced parents who are looking for extra work to help their children pay for college or to supplement family income. Putting an ad in a church bulletin or newspaper may also be a good tactic. Be up-front about your child's special needs.
7. Your nearby collegeIf a college near you has a special education program, or one for speech, physical, or occupational therapy -- anything for which students need to gain experience with special-needs children -- call the offices of those programs and see if there are students close to graduation, with some skills in dealing with special kids, who would appreciate the opportunity to work informally with yours.
8. Your support groupThe moms in your support group are likely too busy taking care of their own challenging children to watch yours, too. But they may have found good babysitting resources in your community that they can share with you. Can't hurt to ask.
9. Your state or local respite services
Respite services provide professionals to watch your child while you get a night or weekend off. The ARCH National Respite Network
can help you find services in your area. Click on "Search for Respite"
for a form listing your specific needs, or on "State Listings"
for information listed alphabetically by state and city.
10. Your own tired spouseIt ruins date night for sure, but if finding someone outside the immediate family proves to be impossible, see if you can at least alternate so that each of you gets time off -- and time in, being the exclusive caretaker and playmate. A weekly coffee out with a friend or half-hour at the gym can do a lot to refresh and relax you. Take what you can get.