Important Skills to Teach Caregivers/Babysitters
There really is no one specific formula for caring for a child with autism, since the disorder itself is considered a spectrum, wherein no two children manifest the same exact symptoms. Your child’s caregiver may have past experience caring for a child with autism, but remember that in autism no two children are alike, whether it be in manifestations of symptoms or quality of response to an intervention. There are skills that, in general, are useful when caring for children with autism. You will want to impart these skills to those who will be taking care of your child with you, whether it be your family member, a friend, or a hired caregiver or sitter. Teaching your caregiver the skills needed to care for your child is essential and should not be overlooked.
Good, adaptable communication skills
Although most children with autism have speech and language delays (CDC, 2010), it is important for a caregiver to communicate with your child in whatever style or strategy you or your therapist have agreed upon. If your child is used to handling picture exchange cards as a means of conveying what he or she needs or wants, then your caregiver has to adapt to and utilize the system.
Ability to keep up with a daily routine
A caregiver should understand the importance of a child’s routine. Any disruption can send your child into an outburst of unpleasant behaviors. Be mindful that children with autism are very particular and notice every detail. Placing water into a cup before placing toothpaste on the toothbrush maybe your child’s preference, and a caregiver should follow this precisely.
Keen observation skills
Observation plays a major role in diagnosis as well as treating a child with autism. Tough as it may seem, observing abnormal behaviors in an already non-conventional behavior in a child, is a skill that a caregiver must learn and utilize. If a caregiver notices that your child is engaging in rhythmic movements, such as rocking, but your child does not normally do this, then this may be a sign that something is wrong. A keen eye for observation also paves the way for knowing who to contact and when in times of emergencies.
Each child is different. Therefore, each approach as to how to handle a child with autism will also vary. It is important that the caregiver you hire for your child’s care is not the type to be easily dominated by your child’s behavior or condition. Knowledge, a sense of empathy, concern, understanding, and a hefty amount of patience are all attributes to look for in your next caregiver.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). cdc.gov: Families with special needs: Caregiving tips. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/family/specialneeds/
South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. (n.d.). dsn.sc.gov: Choosing a caregiver: A guide for individuals and families with special needs. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://ddsn.sc.gov/consumers/publications/Documents/Choosing%20a%20caregiver.pdf
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