Finding appropriate autistic daycare can be quite a challenge. Providing for the specialized needs of children with autism is not a task for the retiree down the street or the teen looking for a summer job. Daycare providers must be knowledgeable about the disorder and experienced in handling its symptoms to provide the social, behavioral, educational, and emotional support that is necessary for many children with autism to thrive.
Why Specialized Autistic Daycare is Important
The preschool years are prime development time for all children. Growth and development that takes place during the preschool years forms the foundation upon which lifelong learning is built. For the child with autism, intensive therapy and education during these early developmental years can be critical, ensuring that these important building blocks are in place.
While needs vary greatly from one child to another, most children with autism will require different teaching and behavioral approaches than their neurotypical-typical peers, often struggling with skills that other children seem to achieve with little effort. However, given the proper support, these developmental differences can be reduced or even, in some cases, eliminated. Ensuring that these needs are addressed with specialized autistic daycare services can be an essential step in assuring that children with autism are equipped with the skills needed to reach their fullest potential.
Social interaction skills are a developmental area in which many children with autism need a great deal of help. A group daycare setting can certainly provide opportunities for learning or reinforcing those crucial social skills, but keep the following points in mind:
- It is essential to choose a daycare provider that understands the social and communication issues common to autism and is well equipped to provide the support needed to acquire these skills successfully.
- If your child requires a great deal of support and supervision in the area of appropriate social behavior, be sure to investigate details such as the teacher to student ratio and class size.
- Smaller classes are often the best environment for children with social interaction issues, providing opportunities to learn social skills without the pressure of large, overwhelming numbers of peers on which to practice them, as well as ensuring that support will be readily available.
Other Group Daycare Advantages
Group autistic daycare can offer advantages in other areas as well. The transition from the relative freedom of the home setting to a structured school environment can be a difficult adjustment for any child. However, such adjustments can be especially challenging for children with autism.
- Since children with autism can have difficulties translating skills learned in one environment to a new setting, transitions often require a great deal of support.
- Even the most basic skills, such as toileting, can become issues in a new environment, and regression in a number of areas is quite common.
- A group daycare setting that provides structured, educational activities can help prepare children with autism learn to handle transition from daily life at home to a more formal setting when the school years begin.
Home Based Daycare Centers
Licensed home based care centers can be a great option for autistic daycare services, especially for children who have difficulty tolerating large groups of people due to sensory issues or social anxiety.
- Home based daycare centers tend to be a bit less expensive than a commercial day care facility, and if chosen carefully can be as beneficial.
- The chief concern when choosing a home based daycare is experience with autism. Even those with years of practical experience with children are quite likely to find that handling the special needs of children with autism is an entirely different ballgame.
- Methods used to teach average children are often ineffective with autistic students, and specialized behavior plans are often necessary.
- Children with autism are often involved with a number of therapists, and accommodations may have to be made for their visits during daycare hours.
In Home Daycare
Hiring a day care professional to come to your home can be a good option.
- Having the child's daily care and supervision done in the home environment, already adapted to specialized needs and sensitivities, can be the best situation for many young children with autism.
- Therapy sessions can be easier to coordinate with a care provider who has only your child to attend to.
- Daily, one-on-one attention can ensure strong support and guidance.
- Choosing a provider with experience in the day to day issues of autism is important to ensure that your child receives the support needed to reach developmental goals.
Evaluating Day Care Providers
No matter which form of autistic daycare you choose to provide for your child, a safe and nurturing environment is the most important consideration of all. As you review centers in your area, consider the following:
- Be sure to ask for and check references before committing to any child care arrangement.
- Ask lots of questions and take notes.
- If a day care center is to be used, spend some time visiting before you enroll your child, observing how employees interact with their young charges and the facility's daily routine.
- Do make some of those visits unexpected ones for a candid evaluation of day-to-day operations.
- Speak to other parents who have had children in the center for an account of their family's experience.
- Most importantly, bring your child with you during the observation to see how he or she responds to the environment.
Reputable day care providers should be happy to provide you with the information you need to investigate their reputation, and local autism support groups can be a great source of information as to the best autistic day care services in your area.