Caring for Children with Special Needs

Do you need the skills to care for a child with special needs? Even the most experienced nannies may feel inadequate caring for a child with special needs. This view and attitude is in most cases driven by lack of sufficient understanding on the conditions affecting these children. Knowing what to expect can provides care givers with the confidence to succeed.
The following is a brief summary about three of the most common conditions.

Autism
As a child minder, the most important thing you need to know about children with autism is that they may have trouble understanding indirect/understated instructions, instructions and requests. Remember, autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and social skills; some cases are mild while others are severe. Some children may become overcome by noisy environments and other may hate being touched. Find out as much as you can from the parent because each autistic child is unique. Here are some great pointers:
• Follow the kid’s routine, more so at bedtime and during meals
• Enquire about the kid’s favorite toys.
• Special toys can go a long way in helping cooperation
• Don’t be discouraged if the kid doesn’t want to play with you or wants to play alone.
• Ensure a calm environment.
• Be careful with physical contact
• Learn from parents and prior caregivers on how to deal with challenging behavior
Some autistic children are calmed by stuffed animals while others may like to rock in a chair or swing set.

Down Syndrome
This is another developmental condition seen with special kids. Children with this condition often seem younger than they really are because their behavior corresponds with that of younger children. A caregiver needs to adapt to their level of their understanding.
Here are a few pointers:
• Find something the kid loves doing.
• Take note that kids with Down syndrome may suffer from lower muscle tone and babies in particular tend to have weak neck muscles.
• Kids with this condition may have difficulty picking up small objects.
• Teach the child how to do new things.
• Avoid complicated rules, keep it simple.
• Kids with Down syndrome might have speech problems.
• Know how to deal with challenging behavior from parents and past caregivers

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Kids with this condition tend to be hyper active. They can have high energy levels for brief periods of time and then lose interest completely. Their attention spans are very short thus learning activity has to be optimized to occur when they are in an active state.
Here are some pointers on caring for such children.
• Kids with ADHD are often very creative. Many enjoy drawing or playing with building blocks.
• Kids with ADHD love active outdoor games like jumping rope or hopscotch.
• Find some low key activities to help them wind down and sleep at night.
• Find out the dosage for any medication the child may be taking
• Your instructions have to be very clear and specific
• Find out from the parents how to deal with difficult situations
As you can see from the foregoing, it’s really just a matter of doing some due diligence. Kids with special needs are like all other kids, sweet and loving. Try and look at the world from the special kid’s perspective and it will change your entire outlook.

by CareForAll

3 Comments

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  2. Comment by Carolliny:

    Living in the Raleigh, North Carolina, I am so thankful for the local TEACCH wookhsrps that I have attended a few years ago. One of the best strategies that I learned is utilizing Calming cards to help redirect autistic children when they are on the verge of having a meltdown. Basically, I make 3 calming cards for each student (usually it’s decorated with that student’s favorite character/colors), and when the student feels overwhelmed, and is becoming stressed about performing a task, the child puts out a calming card, walk over to a designated area, and take a calming break for 1 minute. I use an hourglass timer. Once time runs out, the student comes back to his/her desk to perform their activity. Just to clarify, this is not a time-out as a punishment, This is a technique used to redirect the student. Another technique that I learned through TEACCH is a First Then chart. I choose 3 icons. One is for work, and the other two icons depict the student’s favorite activities i.e., reading, drawing, etc. I laminate a notecard, add Velcro, and place it on the student’s desk. I also laminate and add Velcro to the activity cards. I explain to my student, First work, then _____. The student places his/her activity cards on the notecard, and is a simple reminder of what is expected. It is amazing how effective First Then statements are with children with disabilities. Both the calming cards and the First Then..cards were extremely effective with a student who had Down Syndrome.

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