Caring for a child with ADHD, sensory processing disorder or other developmental challenges is a full-time job – but even full-time jobs come with breaks. When you need one, finding a babysitter or child care provider you can trust is a nerve-wracking proposition. Your pediatrician, local parenting groups and online child care service companies are good places to find responsible candidates with extensive experience.
But finding candidates to interview is only half the struggle. The caregiver must understand your child's special challenges, and the questions you ask at the interview will help you determine whether or not that person is the right fit.
What's Your Experience with Special Needs Kids?
A sitter who only has experience with typical-needs kids may not be prepared for the realities of caring for your child. Ask about the caregiver's experience with kids who have issues similar to your child's, and about the biggest challenges she faced during those jobs. Ask for references who have seen the caregiver work with special needs kids.
What Would You Do If...?
Having good judgment is especially important for a care provider who works with challenged kids. Check the provider's decision-making skills by asking hypothetical questions based on real scenarios that could arise with your child. For example, "What would you do if he ran away while you were in a store?" or "How would you handle a tantrum if she was throwing toys at you?" If you're interviewing providers at a day care center, ask what consequences the providers would enforce if your child disobeyed or broke a rule.
What's Your Safety Training?
All child caregivers should have CPR certification and first aid training, so this is a question that all parents should ask of potential care providers. If your child requires medication or a special diet, ask about the provider's comfort level with adhering to those requirements.
Are You Comfortable With My Supervision?
At least in the beginning, you might feel most comfortable being present while the caregiver is with your child. Ask whether he/she is okay with you supervising during the first several sessions, and whether he/she is comfortable with frequent check-ins while he/she is with your child. Some parents even set up security cameras in central parts of the home so they can check in on a nanny or babysitter during the day. If you plan to go that route, make sure you hire a provider who's comfortable with that level of supervision.