When I can’t be there with Cody, others step in. This is not an easy process. Whether it is for the new job I just started, past part-time jobs, my schooling or otherwise, finding respite workers and leaving Cody with them has always been a challenge. There is always the anxiety, especially with somebody new. There is always the wondering; will they understand his attempts to communicate, will Cody feel cared for, will they engage him in meaningful activities and opportunities? Will they really see and appreciate him for who he is; his strengths and potential?
For any of you who need this type of respite care, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Write a detailed Job Posting which includes: a description of the job, the rate of pay, the job duties (be specific), characteristics you are looking for, and other considerations. If your job posting is professional and reflects high expectations, you will find that those who apply are also professional and meet these expectations
- Advertise the job posting to people who are passionate about working with the special needs population: volunteers at events and organizations who work with special needs children, staff who work at summer daycamps and organizations for children with autism and other special needs, Teachers Assistants who may have after school or summer hours available, and students and graduates of the Community Support Workers diploma
- Always get 1 or 2 references and create a list of questions for them about your prospective worker: What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Any areas of concern? Did you like how they interact with children?
- When introducing your child, never be ashamed of who your child is; talk about their uniqueness and quirks matter of factly…with pride even!
- Don’t shy away from the more intimate or difficult/awkward issues around hygiene and puberty – be mater of fact and open
- Invite them to spend some time with you and your child – they will take their cues from you and how they see you interact with your child
- Let new workers shadow other workers you feel confident in both in and out of home – they will pick up tips on how to interact and motivate your child
- If possible, have them quietly observe therapy sessions; they will pick up tips and ideas for how to interact and teach your child
- Set up a dropbox folder which can be shared with all respite workers and updated as needed, containing: a personal dictionary (your child’s body language, sounds, words, gestures and actions, what they mean, and how to respond), philosophy of how you want them to interact with your child and what your goals are for their times together, ideas for activities around the home and outside of the home, current school and therapy reports so they know what your child is currently working on, a list of likes and dislikes and practical information they need to know
- If there is a behavior or communication which the respite worker cannot understand or doesn’t know how to handle, have them take a video of it so you can discuss it afterwards
- Keep a book for two-way communication for easy reference
Currently, here in BC Canada, I have some support for respite care through a couple of sources. The first is through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It is called “Direct Funded Respite Benefits” and it is available through the At Home Program which requires you to meet particular eligibility guidelines. In BC, this is the link for information: At Home Program – Respite Benefits
Another source of respite funding, to be used while I am at work or school, is funded also by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and is accessed through various community agencies. Mine is through the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre. It is called “Supported Child Development Program” Here is a link to more information: Supported Child Development
Although it is not an easy process, handing Cody over to other capable respite workers has been a learning, growing and enriching experience for both Cody and I. We have come to know so many amazing people; like angels who step into our lives – showing Cody care, igniting new passions and ideas and creative approaches, introducing Cody to new experiences, bringing companionship and friendship into Cody’s life. Cody embraces all of them – those who are open and willing to invest in him are rewarded with his affections, attention and friendship. He will often bounce off his chair at their knock on the front door, race to open the door, reach out to hold their hand and pull them in…eager and ready to face new adventures together.