Working with children who have special needs, developmental differences and disabilities can be one of the most challenging and also rewarding posts of a nanny’s career. It can also be one of the most confusing if she’s not well-prepared with a working knowledge of how a child’s specific disability affects them, and what special needs they have as a result of it. These are 10 of the things that every nanny should know about developmental disabilities before she accepts a new post with a child who has one.
- Each Situation is Unique – Just as there are no two children alike, there are no two children whose struggle with a developmental disorder that are identical. Even if a nanny eventually chooses to specialize in a specific disability or disorder, she isn’t likely to encounter many situations over the course of her career that are exactly the same. Approaching each day and each new task as a completely unique challenge is important.
- Routine is Everything – For average children and those with developmental differences alike, a strong routine and structured schedule is one of the most important aspects of caring for them. All children thrive when their routine is dependable, but a child with special needs may respond to disruptions more negatively.
- Some Milestones Come More Easily Than Others – Depending on the disability a child has and her individual level of progress, some milestones are easier to achieve than others. This is not to say that any milestone is effortless for a child to reach, but rather that some may be increasingly difficult for kids to reach, depending upon their individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Boundaries Can Be Different – Some autistic children strongly dislike to be touched, while others have a strong need for affection. The boundaries regarding what is and is not acceptable can be blurred and difficult to find for nannies who care for kids with special needs due to the unconventional circumstances.
- Be Vigilant – While it’s imperative to closely monitor all children, urgency is increased when a child has special needs or a disability, as a mere moment of inattention can be deadly. Nannies who have kids with developmental differences under their care have a special responsibility to make sure that they’re always properly supervised.
- Be Prepared for Communication Barriers – Communicating with a child who has special needs isn’t always easy, even for the caregivers and parents that live and work with them every day. Nannies should be prepared to encounter at least a bit of a communication barrier in the first months of their new post.
- It’s Important to Ask Questions – The only way that a nanny can learn the particulars of a child’s situation and, by extension, his personal needs and goals, is to ask that child’s parents plenty of questions. Arming yourself with as much knowledge about a child’s condition as possible is one of the best ways to work out an effective care plan.
- Kids With Special Needs Aren’t Broken – One of the most difficult things for many non-medical care providers to understand is that a child with special needs isn’t inherently broken. Rather than viewing your charge as a damaged child in need of repair, try to realize that she’s actually just a unique individual with different needs and desires than the average child.
- Unpredictability is Par for the Course – It’s not always easy to know what to expect when it comes to caring for a child with special needs. Each day truly is a new experience, which means that there’s more unpredictability than routine in such a role.
- Teamwork is the Name of the Game – Childcare providers and medical professionals are most effective when they work with their charge’s parent as a team to act as advocates for him. As a nanny for a child with special needs, you must be prepared to prevent the child you’re caring for from any sort of negativity, prejudice or poor treatment. Together, you can all achieve far more than you would individually.
Nannies with ambitions to care for children with developmental differences and disorders can benefit greatly from classes and other specialized instruction on the subject, as they can provide the sort of hands-on learning experience that simply reading a few books on the subject does not. Take the time to determine what’s available in your area so that you can focus on advancing your career and increasing your competence level when it comes to caring for special youngsters.