If you need childcare while you work or require respite to help you keep your energy up caring for a child on the spectrum, there are several options for daycare that can help. It's not always easy to find the perfect fit, but the right center or individual is out there. These tips will help you find a place that loves and supports your child when you are not there.
Consider School-Based Daycare for School-Aged Kids
Many school systems have integrated after-school, before-school, and summer care right there on site.
- These daycares are part of the public school system, so they must accommodate a child with special needs.
- They will even have your child's IEP on file, and while they won't necessarily work on its goals, they will be able to get some background and know what accommodations can help.
This is an option for many kids who are pre-K or older, but unfortunately, it won't work for kids who are younger or are older than elementary-age.
Don't Rule Out Regular, Private Daycares
You may have had the experience of being turned down by a private center once they realize your child is on the autism spectrum. Ultimately, you don't want to put your child someplace where people won't understand him, but don't make the mistake of thinking all centers are the same.
- These centers offer the advantage of taking a wide range of ages, so it's important to give them a try.
- Be up-front with the center about your child's needs and functioning level and watch to see how they react.
If they appear accommodating, it's worth a trial to see if they are a good fit for your little one.
Look Into In-Home Daycares in Your Community
Many moms, including those of kids with special needs, create their own in-home daycares to allow them to generate an income while they stay home with kids. Ask around in your community, paying special attention to the recommendations of your child's teachers, classroom and personal aides, and therapists, to see if there's a home-based daycare that might be a good fit.
- The advantage here is that the service can be much more personal and reassuring for your child, as some kids can get overwhelmed by larger centers or school-based daycares.
- Be sure to sit down with the provider and talk about expectations and autism in general; that's the only way to make sure this person will understand your child and what she needs.
Search for Specialized Private Daycare
A rare and often expensive option, specialized private daycare is designed to meet the needs of children on the spectrum or with other special needs. They are generally small and include a low ratio of adults to children, offering intensive therapy and attention for each child. This is ideal, but it's hard to find and often pricey.
- If you have an autism center in your community, this is the first place to look. Some autism centers offer this type of service in addition to therapy and advocacy.
- You can also ask your child's pediatrician or psychiatrist if there is something like this in your area.
- Autism Speaks also has a list of respite care providers that specialize in ASD.
Meet With Providers Directly
As you search for a good daycare, take time to sit down with the providers and have an honest discussion about your child's needs and your expectations. During the meeting:
- Listen to what they say and also watch how they say it.
- If they seem accommodating and compassionate, they could be a great option.
- Have your child meet the provider, too, so you can get a sense of how he or she will react.
If the dynamic seems good, schedule a trial day or two to see how it goes.
Keep Trying Different Options
Like so many aspects of raising a child with autism, the first thing you try may not be the perfect fit. Don't be discouraged if you can't find the right daycare option immediately. Just move on to the next possibility. Soon, you'll find someone who will understand your child and accommodate his or her needs.