Meet Sarah W, a Special Needs caregiver with College Nannies and Tutors. She’s been with College Nannies for over a year and a half while also volunteering for a few causes. Sarah is a volunteer certified EMT and a recreation therapy volunteer at Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Year after year, she has volunteered at a therapeutic riding center working with children with special needs. Sarah graduated VCU with a criminal justice major and a minor in Russian. She speaks Russian fluently and she tutors algebra!
Here she talks about working with a Special Needs Child. College Nannies + Tutors has been Building Stronger Families® in Richmond communities since 2008. Locally owned and operated, we are part of your community, here to serve your family. Whether your family needs the quality care that comes from one of our role model College Nannies or the one-on-one attention from one of our College Tutors©, we are committed to helping you with a customized solution to your specific needs. Please call us and see how we can help you. We know how important it is to have safe child care , peace of mind as well as some time to yourself .
Why is working with a child with special needs rewarding for you?
I enjoy the opportunity to make a small difference in both the child’s life and the family’s life. Children with special needs find happiness and wonder at the little things, and they help me appreciate those little things too. Things that might be considered insignificant to some- a child smiling, communicating, or finishing dinner- can make my whole day. I enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to learn new things. I have no formal training in special education, so I learn through experience: watching, observing, and asking questions. During my teens and throughout college, I’ve worked with many families as a nanny and sitter. Quite a few of the children have been on the autism spectrum.
When there’s a day full of struggle (with a care recipient), what gives you strength or patience?
Some days I just have to take a moment to breathe, acknowledge that it’s a bad day, and move on. I remind myself why I enjoy doing my job and remember the good days. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at staying patient and laughing off things. I set new goals for the day, and remember to smile. If there is a specific behavior or situation that’s causing an issue, I make a note to ask the therapist or parent for tips on how to deal with it better next time. When the day is over, I take time to relax and unwind. It’s important to take every day as a fresh start. Dwelling on a bad day will accomplish nothing positive but having a positive attitude is important.
What would you recommend that a family look for when hiring a special needs caregiver? What are some necessary qualities?
It is hard to be specific, because each child is different, and each family’s needs are different. It is important for a family to consider the type of care they are the looking for, what exactly the caregiver’s responsibilities will be, and the schedule. From there, they can find the caregiver with the experience and personality that will be the best fit. It is important to know the level of care that the child will need. For example, is the child verbal or nonverbal? Do they need assistance with eating or going to the bathroom? Will the caregiver administer medications or participate in therapy sessions? Does the child use any harmful stimming behaviors? Will the caregiver be looking after siblings too? I definitely recommend taking the time to have a potential caregiver come over to meet the child and “shadow” during the time they will be working, especially for children requiring more care. This gives the family time to observe the caregiver, and gives the caregiver the opportunity to learn the routine and ask questions. As for some necessary qualities, a caregiver should be nurturing, patient, compassionate, cheerful, willing to learn, helpful, and able to multitask (especially if they will be working with more than one child).
Can you think of a hidden gift that might be found in a child with special needs?
Every child is unique and has their own gifts. Getting to know them and learning how they see and interact with the world around them is part of the fun. Children with special needs are no different. They have their own personalities and gifts. Sometimes they can take a little longer to get to know, but that makes the journey even more rewarding.
College Nannies and Tutors of Richmond