There are advantages of having your child with special needs have a caregiver at a young age. For obvious reasons, it can be difficult for parents to trust someone outside of the family. However, if parents do not expose their child to other caregivers early in life, it can have ramifications later.
“You need-and certainly deserve-a break from time to time. In fact, without any “time off” from your parental duties, you are at risk for developing a stress-related illness, and jeopardizing your mental health” (families.com). Parents can use this time to go out on a date or have the caregiver help during the day. This also allows the child to gain trust outside of the family which is important when they live in a group home or live independently with caregivers. Several successful stories can be found at: abilitypath.org. For a independent future for your child, it starts with the first few relationships. “These first relationships are the foundation for young children’s growth and development in social, emotional, behavioral, language and cognitive domains. This is true for all children, including children with, or at risk for developmental disabilities” (ncast.org).
On a personal note, I’ve had several success stories. I had many babysitters since I was in pre-school. In addition to babysitters, I’ve always had an assistant with me at school. These women helped me realize that anyone was capable of helping me. There is one woman in particular that stands out when I think about care outside of my family.
My family hired a young woman named Allison to be my respite care worker when I was 12. She came to give my parents date nights and a few weekends away. At the beginning, my mom would stay home and watch Allison interact with my younger siblings and me. As time went on, we began to look forward to our time with Allison. We would want Mom and Dad to leave so we could have fun and make ice cream sundaes! As the years passed, Allison and I became friends. She would take me to the city, on my first road trip and to other fun outings.
After seven years of spending time with me, I no longer needed Allison. I was going off to college and she was settling down with her boyfriend. She gladly helped me with the first week of college. After that, she got married and had a beautiful baby boy. I couldn’t imagine not having Allison in my life.
Allison helped me realize that anybody who was trained properly could help me. Working with Allison who was a virtual stranger at first, helped me be independent in college and after graduation. I feel as if my parents had not exposed me to people like Allison, I would not have had the confidence to be as independent as I was during my college years and beyond. My family used the Jewish Children’s Bureau (www.jcfs.org) to find Allison. My family and I know it can be challenging to find the right first caregiver. Here are some resources to help you start: