Exceptional children need exceptional childcare

Choosing the right care for your child can present many challenges especially when your child has special needs. For most parents who have children with physical and/or mental limitations, the first childcare preference is the parents, themselves. Unfortunately, this is not always feasible. Some parents need to work and earn an income to keep the household running. Childcare is also needed to give parents a much needed break.

Many families with challenged children may need to hire more than one type of caregiver. This can make the search for care more daunting. The good news is that there are many resources out there. It’s best for parents to build a strong support system that consists of a pool of qualified caregivers they can call upon for a variety of needs. Parents must become aware of different types of childcare available for kids with disabilities. Special needs childcare options may range from traditional drop off childcare centers to private care providers to possibly just respite care for occasional breaks. Here are some general childcare options to consider, plus factors to keep in mind when looking for the best option to help your child with special needs to thrive.
• Family Care—If you have the benefit of having relatives who are local and available, consider incorporating family into your childcare plan. This option no doubt will offer peace of mind, knowing that your child will be cared for by a loving relative who is personally invested in helping your child to thrive. Nevertheless, family care has its own set of challenges that will need to be addressed, such as figuring out compensation or clarifying boundaries.
• Nanny—A live-in or live-out nanny can provide one-on-one care for your child in your home. The benefits are that you need not worry about the extra steps of day care drop off and pick up, and that all of your child’s favorite toys and any special gear will be at hand. The downside is that you lose the socialization experience you child would gain in group day care. When researching nanny options, look for nannies with specific interest or experience in working with children with special needs.
• Mature Sitters—Theyrepresent anything from professional childcare providers to older women looking for supplemental income now that their own children are grown and out of the house. Scope out your local special needs support groups, as you may be fortunate to find a parent of a now-grown child with special needs who understands the concerns you have and the accommodations your child will need and who is willing to care for your child.
• Respite Care—Sometimes you may simply need temporary care for an occasional night out. Respite care can give you time to yourself and restore your inner resources. Connect with local families who have children with special needs and local agencies to identify sources of respite care. Respite care can sometimes be paid for by service agencies. MHMR services in each state often will pay for respite care.
• Licensed Childcare Center—All child care centers must comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a nutshell, Title III states that childcare providers cannot exclude persons on the basis of a disability, and must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and physical accessibility to integrate those with special needs into the childcare center. (Note that childcare centers that are run by religious entities such as churches, mosques or synagogues are not covered by Title III.) Nevertheless, you need to personally inspect the facility to make sure they can accommodate all your child’s needs. For more severe disabilities, talk to the staff and ask about their background in working with the type of disability that affects your child.
There are several links like www.care.com to help find specialized childcare too. You can also check at local parent support groups and ask at your child’s school. Often, they may know about possible care providers who have experience working with kids that need extra care.
Deciding on the right care option for your child can be a challenging process, but you will enjoy immense peace of mind once you identify the situation best suited to your child’s needs and gifts. Start looking into care options early, as there often are waiting lists for many programs. 

Mona Chabra is a freelance writer from Sewickley.