Special Needs Child Care Guide: Interview Questions

What to ask a potential caregiver

Whatever child care option you decide on, an interview with the special needs child care provider is essential, particularly for the parent of a child with special needs. The basic questions, such as those about the day care, daily activities and routines, and child/teacher ratio are the same for all kids, but you'll also want to converse directly about your child's specific needs and gifts, and what the child care center or caregiver is prepared to do to accommodate those needs and nurture those gifts. Remember, you want to see that the focus is on your child as a person, rather than a diagnosis. Aside from basic babysitter, nanny, and day care interview questions, the following are important special needs related questions to keep in mind for the interview:

  • Center logistics. Is the center equipped to accommodate your child's physical disability (if any)? Can reasonable accommodations be made to accommodate accessibility?
  • Sensitivity training. Have the child care providers received training about individual differences and structuring activities to meet children's different developmental stages and special needs?
  • Previous experience. Do the child care providers have experience or special training in caring for children with special needs? If yes, what disabilities, limitations, or special needs? Can the provider offer references from other parents of children with special needs who have been under their care?
  • Individual needs. Would the child care providers be willing to undergo training or learn new skills to help them best care for a child with special needs, or implement specific learning plans?
  • Mutual learning. Do the child care providers feel passionate about discovering the individual gifts that your child will bring to the program? Do they feel that they can learn from this relationship?
  • External services. Are there external services (such as physical therapist, speech pathologist) in place, should additional care be required? Is the child care provider willing to help integrate external services into your child's daily routine?
  • Handling emergencies. Has the child care provider ever dealt with an emergency special needs situation? If so, what was the situation and how was it handled?
  • Benefits and challenges. What have been the greatest benefits or joys of working with special needs children? What have been the biggest challenges, and why?

In addition to asking these questions, be sure to provide all of the details about your child's needs, with examples of what he does and doesn't enjoy, his preferred methods of communicating, and his specific interests and abilities. Encourage open communication and ask if the child care provider has any questions or concerns to share. Then, post-interview, follow up with the sitter, nanny, or day care center's references.

Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.

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