Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Finding a New Babysitter When Your Child Has Special Needs

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I recently had a babysitter disappear on us.

She just started working for my family in August, and we had gotten into a rhythm of her babysitting my 4-year-old son for a few hours every Saturday and/or Sunday morning while my husband and I went on "study dates"what we call going to a cafe together to drink coffee as we work on our laptops.

My husband and I liked her: She had plenty of experience working as a babysitter, was unafraid of dealing with any seizures or allergic reactions that my son could potentially have, and mentioned on multiple occasions that she enjoyed babysitting him. She always seemed willing to babysit for us.

Until she didn't.

She mentioned a few weeks ago that she'd soon be working a few hours per week at a new job. Since then she has babysat for us at least once, two weekends ago, but then for the next 3 days that I asked about, she couldn't babysit because of being scheduled to work at her new job. That was understandable.

And then a week and a half ago, when I texted her about the possibility of babysitting this past Saturday and/or Sunday, she just...didn't respond. I sent her an email a couple of days later about a job opportunity I thought she might be interested in, and my husband sent her an email a few days later to follow up about babysitting this past Saturday and/or Sunday. But again, no response.

This experience has left my husband and me baffled. 

Is she too busy to babysit for us anymore? If so, why doesn't she just tell us that? Did we do something to offend her? Is something difficult going on in her personal life?

Without any contact from her, we can't know the answers. It sort of feels like a break-up where the other person just stops returning your phone calls. It's very confusing, but the only thing we can do is move on.

And so, we're moving on.

Earlier this week, I put up an ad for a babysitter on I struggled a bit with how much to write about my son's special needs. I knew I needed to disclose his special needs because first of all, it was the right thing to do, and secondly, I wanted to hear only from candidates who would feel comfortable managing his special needs. But I didn't want to write so much that I would scare potential candidates away.

In the end, I opted to write a brief intro about my son being sweet, curious, and really into playing with toy vehicles and going on walks. Then I wrote about his most pertinent special needs: wearing braces (but being able to walk), needing to use gestures and pictures to communicate (but being able to understand most of what is said to him), and needing a caregiver who can administer emergency meds in case of a seizure or allergic reaction.

I haven't received replies from any promising candidates, but I feel hopeful that we'll find someone, one way or another.

We always have.

We've had several babysitters over the years, including one wonderful one who is still working for us, thank goodness. We just need some extra help on the weekends, when she isn't always available. 

Most of the babysitters we've found online using sites such as*, which allows you to view profiles and exchange messages. I know it can be scary using a new babysitter you've found on the internet, especially if your child has special needs, so if you're new to this, here are some tips I have for becoming more comfortable with a candidate babysitter:

  1. For the first meeting, meet with the candidate babysitter at a neutral, kid-friendly location, such as a kid-friendly cafe or the children's section of the library. Bring your kid along, and see how the babysitter interacts with him. Is she warm towards him? Is she playful? Ask her questions about her babysitting and other work experience. Does she ask you questions, too? In my opinion, it's a good sign if she does. If you feel comfortable, schedule a trial babysitting session with her.
  2. For the trial babysitting session, stay nearby. For example, if the babysitter is playing with your kid downstairs in your home, hang out upstairs and clean, rest, work on your computer, or whatever. That way, if the babysitter has questions, you can answer them on the spot, or if she needs to be trained in, say, how to feed your kid his snack, you can pop in at snack time, show her how it's done, and then go back to your hang-out place. Plus, you can listen to make sure your child is being kept safe. 
  3. If the trial babysitting session goes wellyou and the babysitter can decide what "goes well" meansthen schedule another babysitting session. Continue staying nearby during babysitting sessions until both you and the babysitter feel comfortable with you leaving.

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any additional tips, please share them in the comments section below!

*Disclaimer: I'm not being paid by; I just like using their site.


  1. Yes - the childrens' library is a good place to be.

    You might discover if the babysitter is semi-literate or functionally illiterate.

    "Does she ask you questions too"?

    And doing your normal things is important to make sure they won't feel hovered over.

    Are you looking for au pairs and/or nannies too?

  2. Hi, Adelaide! Thanks for taking the time to comment! (And sorry it's taken me so long to respond; we were on vacation.) I definitely agree that it's important to make sure a babysitter doesn't feel hovered over in the initial babysitting session. I think it's good for the babysitter and child to get to know one another with the parent out of sight.

    I'm not really looking for au pairs or nannies, just a babysitter who can help out 5-6 hours a week. I may have found someone, actually, since writing this post. She'll be coming to my house on Saturday afternoon for a trial babysitting session. Fingers crossed!