Challenges Vs. Self-care
Having a child with autism is often very challenging. Parents, while they work to understand and deal with and take care of a special needs child, also need to find the balance wherein they care for themselves. Loving parents often feel guilty for this, but they shouldn’t. If a parent doesn’t care for themselves and get a break once in a while, they lose the ability to make rational choices regarding their autistic child or start to lose a sense of compassion and concern and care. If you are involved in any extra assistance programs with your child, chances are you already have a great resource to find respite care services for children with autism.
What Is Respite Care?
Respite care is a wonderful way for parents to get a break from the extra challenges they face parenting a child with special needs. Depending on where you live, finding a respite care program that works for you and your child may just be a simple phone call away to the county agency that provides resources and support to parents like you. Respite care for children with disabilities often involves day programs, support groups with other like individuals and families, and even referrals to specially trained childcare providers who understand your need for a little “me time” and are there to help.
Where Can I Find Info On Respite Care?
Some states actually have a respite care providers network. These may be operated by the state and county in which you reside or they may be non-profit organizations dedicated to providing temporary care to individuals with special needs. Respite care costs are the parents’ responsibility in some cases, while in others if the county makes the referral for you the county foots the bill, and if you do not have the fiscal resources to pay.
Most states have what is referred to as a “Long Term Care Waiver” for special needs children. Once your child has been diagnosed with autism, ADD/ ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s, or any other developmental delay/ disorder you can apply to this waiver program. Generally the age limit for these children is eight years of age, so it is vital that you seek out a diagnosis early and apply as soon as you can for your child(ren). The determination for eligibility is a long one, unless your child(ren) also receive(s) Federal Social Security Disability Income or Social Security Income benefits. If you have a determination letter from the Federal office of disability it speeds the process along much faster. A county representative then meets with you in your home to fill out paperwork and meet your child face to face and discuss concerns and reasons for entering the long term waiver program. If the determination is a positive one, your child receives additional in home therapy for their issues, and this also includes respite time for you. The agent conducting the investigation will also hand you a list of resources in your area that will help you manage the challenges you are facing in a healthy and more functional way.
A Childcare Resource And Referral Center, or a Family Resource Center in your community can also be a great service to consult. This organization is very good at compiling lists of people and daycares and other child- related programs and offering up these lists to parents who come to them for help. If there is a respite care program for your child available in the area that would best suit your needs, or a respite care providers network in your state, these centers will know it and gladly give out the information free of charge. They will also have day programs where your child may come in and play while you talk with a specialist about how you can find respite care services for children or different approaches you can take to care for your special needs child.
Technical Colleges that offer two year degrees in Child Development have young adults who are looking for work experience in their field as well as “work for credit” opportunities. Speaking to the heads of this department will help point you in the direction of focused and energetic young adults who would love to work and learn about your child and apply what they are learning in a real life situation. As long as they know they will be applying for a position that entails respite care for children with disabilities they will come better equipped to handle things and that will give you a sense of security and some time to yourself that is invaluable.
On The Flip Side
If you think you would like to be a provider for respite care for children with disabilities or even become a respite care foster care provider to give foster parents a break, the jobs out there exist. You have to either apply through the county and be heavily scrutinized and exposed to background checks of all kinds, or look for work with a non- profit that does such work. If you really want to make respite care your life’s work for a specific type of special needs child, you may even open up your home to do so, but licensing is brutal and you have to have a completely open book approach to follow this career choice.
If you have a degree in child development that is especially useful and makes it appear that you are serious in your commitment to the children you will host. It’s imperative that you know and understand about developmental disorders like autism and Asperger’s, Down’s and ADHD. Do not walk into this line of work without working knowledge of what to expect thinking that working with these children will be a cake walk; it most definitely isn’t.
Your home must fit with the special physical needs and challenges these children present. It isn’t about having a fenced in yard with an outdoor gym and plenty of toys inside to play with; many times door widths have to be a certain measurement to avoid injury, breakable items need to be completely removed from all rooms, poisons and cleaning chemicals must always be locked up, and sharps like kitchen knives have to be kept out of sight and locked as well. A complete overhaul in your home as well as your mindset has to take place if you plan on doing this in your own home. It takes a very special person to do respite care services for children, and you have to know, not just believe, that you are ready.