One-Off Special Needs Care in Toronto
May 7, 2014 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I am planning an event that I would like to be child free, and felt that one way I could make the process easier is to find a few candidates that would be qualified to take care of the kids of the people I'm inviting. I need help finding suitable persons.

The child that would need this one-off care for about 5 hours for an evening in the summer is a teenage child with Down's Syndrome. I'm told his mental abilities are those of someone about 6 years old.

I'm in Toronto and was wondering what resources were available to me, or if anyone had any experience doing this.
posted by althanis to Human Relations (7 answers total)
You could try they specialize in this kind of stuff. The link is for the Canadian site.
posted by patheral at 9:01 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try Community Living Toronto. They might be able to help you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2014

I had an uncle with mental retardation (not Down Syndrome). He was not particularly verbal, but he was pretty independent and got his message across most of the time. I have also provided respite care for a bunch of people with various cognitive and physical disabilities.

Short answer: If the person's needs are pretty straightforward, just about any caring, trusted person could probably cover this responsibility. But your first concern is what the person with Down Syndrome is really like.

Many "normal" people with DS don't require a ton of truly special care; they'd probably have a great time going to a movie or hanging out doing a project of some sort or doing stuff other teenagers like. (As with just about anyone, the choice should be up to them what they want to do, within reason.)

Do they have any SPECIAL special needs? Some people do have certain health or behavioral issues that happen to be present along with their DS, such as breathing or anxiety or whatever. If bedtime is involved, maybe there's a CPAP machine involved for sleep apnea. Who knows. (Plenty of people without DS have to deal with that, too.) Point being: it can be very simple, or much more complicated. Checking in with the family to see what this particular person needs and likes will go a long way.

Respite care may be the kind of thing you're looking for, but it depends on a few things. ("Respite" typically refers to giving a primary caregiver a break, so it's a little more specialized than a regular "outing," but at least those respite folks might know whom to contact.)

But it does help if the potential caregiver/buddy has at least some experience with a person with developmental disabilities. My husband, for example, is a very caring person who had been around my uncle A. many times, but he confessed that he sometimes felt a bit uncomfortable around A. because he wasn't sure what A. was asking of him, or what A. needed. It happens. It's okay. A person with developmental disabilities is a new person to you; you are a new person to that person. (And most people with DS are probably more understandable than A.)

You might consider getting in touch with a student at a local university, specifically mentioning that this is a person with Down Syndrome who would like to hang out for several hours. There are a lot of people who are trained in rehabilitation psychology or special ed who would probably go for this opportunity, and there are probably others who have volunteered with Special Olympics or something who could do it well.
posted by Madamina at 9:17 AM on May 7, 2014

I'm thinking with with Community Living people, they will have staff from their programs, including relief (casual) staff who they might be able to send your way (or send your contact info to). Or perhaps utilizing their family support groups, there might be a family member who would be able to assist. The relief staff would already be cleared with police checks for vulnerable populations.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:19 AM on May 7, 2014

I think your heart is in the right place, but you seriously might want to reconsider your strategy here.

Unless the child is your child (or very closely related to you), making an effort to get special help for this one child with Down's Syndrome--which I very much get is born out of sincere caring on your part--may backfire in a big way.

Most parents I know are very choosy about who they feel comfortable with watching their kids. Only part of deciding on a caregiver is about relevant qualifications. The bigger part, in my experience, is their personal comfort level with the caregiver, which comes from how good a fit the caregiver is with the family. Does the kid feel comfortable, do the adults communicate well with each other, do the parents trust that they are all in the same page with coping strategies, discipline and end goals, etc.

I know you aren't singling out this child; you are just anticipating this particular child's special needs. But how do you see this going over to the parents, when you say, hey, I am going to have a monthly club, and I'd love for you to come--by the way, kids aren't invited but don't worry because I have taken the liberty of employing a babysitter you two have never met on your behalf, who I feel is qualified to care for X! So that's all covered!

I think, instead of thoughtfully preparing in advance, you will come across as presumptuous and less empathetic to their specific concerns with your intended approach.

Perhaps the better way might be to float the idea of the adults getting away each month for this event, and then ask the parents what specifically you can do to help make it easier for them to attend?
posted by misha at 9:32 AM on May 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

For pretty much any child, special needs or not, the solution here is probably for you to pay the tab for a caregiver the parents select, not to select one yourself. Probably the only exception to this might be a situation where the event and the childcare were in basically the same space (for example, a caregiver hired to watch the "children's room" for the kids at a wedding reception while the rest of the reception goes on in another part of the building) so I could pop in and see what was going on any time I felt like it.

Whatever you decide, don't spring a solution on them. Get the parents in question involved up front -- 'we want our wedding reception to be adults only; how can I help you make arrangements for Johnny so you can attend?'). BUT! Be aware that they might simply opt out of your event no matter how tempting you make the child-care arrangements, and don't take it personally.

Also, peaking only for myself (but knowing I have had this conversation with other parents), it's possible that if my child cannot attend I will choose not to attend as well, not because I'm somehow opposed to your "child free" event but just because I always have to balance spending the limited awake-and-not-working time I have in situations where my child can be with me, vs. at events with just other adults.
posted by anastasiav at 12:30 PM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

If they'll be coming from out of town, I would send them the links you get from this AskMe with a kind note saying "I found these resources and thought they might help you find someone to hang out with Dave during the event." That makes it clear that Dave isn't invited, but also that you're aware that Dave can't have any old babysitter.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:23 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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