What kind of questions do I ask a potential Personal Care Attendant?
March 25, 2011 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Special Education Filter: What kind of questions do I ask someone interviewing to be my child's Personal Care Attendant?

I received a little funding to hire a Personal Care Attendant for my elementary-school aged child who has Asperger Syndrome. I haven't had to interview anyone for any kind of job before and while I assume I can fudge it, are there specific questions I can ask that will appear professional and not look like I'm a paranoid parent?

The PCA will mostly be doing child care during the summer months, such as taking my child swimming, hiking, going to the library, etc while I'm at work.

The PCA program has its own background check, so I'm good there. However, they won't hire PCAs so it's up to me. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Education (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd ask them a lot of the normal questions I'd ask a babysitter; what their experience is, check out if they're certified in first aid/cpr (if that's important to you), what training they've had, etc.

I'd also describe several scenarios to them, asking them what they'd do if your child did something - and make those "somethings" the typical tantrums or common patterns of behavior that the child does. And lots of 'what if' questions - what would you do if he throws a tantrum in the library, what will you do if he won't get out of the pool, etc.

You might want to ask their teacher if they have any suggestions.
posted by lemniskate at 7:19 PM on March 25, 2011

I'd ask if the person has worked with kids who have challenging behaviors before, lots of "what if" this happens, how do they feel challenging behaviors should be addressed (of course once they got the job they would be required to handle them according to your instructions, but there are a whole spectrum of responses to challenging behaviors, try to feel out where their instincts lie. If they say something like "that kid just needs a good whoopin'" then you know where they stand.)

(If you feel comfortable about it, please memail me, I have an elementary-aged kid with Aspergers and would love to find out about funding sources for things like this.)
posted by Daily Alice at 7:29 PM on March 25, 2011

I've worked with a child on the autism spectrum before (much younger and more severely affected) as well as for other families as a nanny/babysitter. Please, please do not worry about sounding paranoid or overprotective. Any good caregiver would PREFER that you are thorough, careful, and working hard to hire the right person for the job. We don't get offended that you want to take good care of your child. We'd rather work for people who care about their children, because we care about them, too!

In terms of general interviewing strategy--don't make it obvious what the "right" answer is. I have had parents ask things like "you'd never let my child have soda, right?" Even if I were the type to give babies soda (heh) it would be easy to just go along with it.

Speaking of, if he has an sensory issues or dietary quirks I'd ask if they have any experience with a restricted diet.

I'd also look for someone who has an interest in psychology or autism spectrum disorders in general. This job could be good experience for someone who is interested in the field. They'd be motivated to learn and read about Asperger's which would make them a better caregiver, I think.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:08 PM on March 25, 2011

I used to be a personal care assistant on staff at a local school, working in the mornings with a 3-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, and in the afternoons with a 4-year-old boy with severe autism.

In my opinion, the most important thing is that you feel safe with this person. The second most important thing, though, is that your child likes this person, and for me as a parent, I feel safer when my child's with people she likes. I would strongly suggest having your child present for at least part of the interview--the caregiver should meet and interact with the child, and you should pay attention not just to what the caregiver says and does, but how your child reacts to them.

I'd also argue that you want to look for someone who has experience working with children, specifically in children with disabilities or children who have behavioral problems. (Not because I think that autism equates to behavioral problem, necessarily, but because having worked with both demographics, the skill sets are remarkably similar--lots of being patient and calm, coaching gently instead of flat-out telling, etc.)

You can probably get away with asking almost anything in the interview. Almost anyone working with kids has met crazy, overprotective parents, and the fact that you're asking this question means that you're probably not one.

That said, potential questions:
Have you taken a first aid course/do you have first aid certification?
Can you swim? Drive? Run short distances? (That last one's in case your child's a runner at all.)
Are you willing to [bathe child/clean up vomit or feces/perform other personal care tasks]?
Do you have any physical or health limitations?
Where have you worked previously? Why did you leave those positions?
What aspects of this job seem like they'll be difficult for you?
posted by MeghanC at 2:01 AM on March 26, 2011

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