6 options for special needs child care

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Caring for a child with special needs can be an around-the-clock endeavor. Many parents struggle with the idea of turning over the care of their child to someone else. But as children with special needs grow, many families realize they can't provide the care alone, and finding the right people or places to provide assistance can be a daunting task. Parents should consider talk to their child's doctors or other care providers about local options or seek out the parents of other children with special needs for advice.

Here are six care options to consider for your child:

1. Family care 

If you have the benefit of having relatives who are local and available, consider incorporating family into your child’s care plan. This option will no doubt offer peace of mind, knowing that your child will be cared for by a loving relative who is personally invested in helping your child to thrive. Nevertheless, family care has its own set of challenges that will need to be addressed, such as figuring out compensation and clarifying boundaries.

2. Mature sitter

Mature sitters represent anything from professional child care providers to older women looking for supplemental income. Canvas your local special-needs support groups, as you may be fortunate enough to find a parent of an adult with special needs who understands the concerns you have and the accommodations your child will need.

3. Nanny

A live-in or live-out nanny would provide one-on-one care for your child in your home. The benefits are that you need not worry about the extra steps of day care drop off and pick up, and that all of your child's favorite toys and any special gear will be available. The downside is that you lose the socialization experience your child would gain in a group day care. When researching nanny options, look for nannies with specific interest or experience in working with children with special needs. Note that nannies with experience in this domain may seek higher wages.

4. Licensed child care center

In addition to the benefits of socialization, sending your child to a privately run child care center offers the benefit that the center must comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a nutshell, Title III states that child care providers cannot exclude persons on the basis of a disability, and must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and physical accessibility to integrate those with special needs into the center. (Note that child care centers that are run by religious entities such as churches, mosques or synagogues are not covered by Title III.)

5. PPEC center

Children with medically-complex conditions may be eligible for Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care centers. This type of care is only available in some states, so check with your child’s doctor or your state’s health department. Many PPEC centers provide nursing services, personal care, developmental therapies and caregiver training.

6. Respite care

Sometimes you need a break and require temporary care for your child. Respite care can give you time to yourself to restore your inner resources so that you can have enough to give to your family again. Connect with local families who have children with special needs and local agencies to identify sources of respite care.

Deciding on the right care option for your child can be a challenging process, but you will enjoy immense peace of mind once you identify the situation best suited to your child's needs. Start looking into care options early, as there often are waiting lists for many programs.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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