Finding Childcare For A Child With Autism: What Parents Need To Know

If you need to find a suitable childcare situation for your child due to your work schedule or other time constraints, the search is even more challenging when you have a child who is on the autism spectrum. Your child may struggle to adapt to daycare, may not do as well in the social environment of daycare, and providers may struggle to understand your child's needs. However, this does not mean that you should not be able to find a suitable situation for your child that he or she will thrive in. Here are some guidelines about daycare types and styles that will help you choose the daycare center that is right for your child's needs.

Assessing the level of care needed

As you know, every child with autism is slightly different in the way the disorder manifests itself. Some may not struggle at all to communicate, while remaining very ambivalent in social situations. Some may not talk much at all. Before you look for a daycare for your child, write down the "little things" you have learned about your child just by being around them (things that might come naturally to you) and try to assess their abilities from an objective viewpoint, both intellectually and socially. This concrete list will help you to notice the details of daycares that you visit.

Choosing a daycare center

When choosing a daycare center, your first priority is to look for a program that is friendly to other children with disabilities. If other children are enrolled, the staff is likely to be trained to handle differing needs and they will be used to offering modifications. Also, if you notice that other children with disabilities are present, it also means that your child's specific needs are more likely to be taken seriously. Ask the daycares you are interested in the following questions:

  • Are you familiar with autism? Is there someone on the staff who has worked with other autistic children?
  • Do you have other children enrolled with special needs? What percentage of children here require special care? 
  • Are there any time restrictions or increased hourly rates for children with special needs?
  • Do you offer a trial period to help my child adjust?

These questions are important to ask because some daycare centers may have a cap for the number of special needs children they can accommodate. You also want to make sure that the situation will be good for your child. If you have to agree to contracted period of care, or if the daycare reserves the right to ask your child to be un-enrolled, these are obstacles you need to prepare for. 

Best types of daycare for autistic children

If your child is going to go to a daycare center, these features will generally help him or her to make the adjustment more easily:

  1. Smaller class sizes. More one-on-one time will help your child to feel more secure, and smaller groups will be less intimidating socially.
  2. A place where your child can go to be alone or to calm down when he or she is upset. Your child may feel the need to be removed from the group during periods of emotion or stress. If a place is not available, you will want to look elsewhere.
  3. Structured play. Many daycares offer unstructured play, which is helpful for many children without autism. However, your child may do better with a schedule, specific instructions, and long transitions. Ask for a run-down of how the day is structured at the daycare. If it is too "free", your child may struggle with the environment. 

Other daycare options that autistic children respond well to include home daycares and in-home care. Home daycares will give your child more time with a dependable caregiver, but they may struggle with the new rules or some else's home. In-home care can be expensive, but it allows your child to remain in the comfort and familiarity of home. Which is best simply depends on what specific needs your child has. For more information on daycare centers, have a peek at this site.