Self Care for a Special Needs Parent

Dear Angel,

My daughter, Valerie, has autism spectrum disorder (formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome, but now under the ASD umbrella). She is very bright, and for the most part is in an inclusive environment at school. However, when she gets home, she has panic attacks often, and needs constant attention. I spend all of my time thinking about her needs, and no time on myself, and the stress is taking a toll on my mental and physical health. Do you know of any suggestions for finding caregiving help/respite for a special needs parent? I don’t trust just anyone with my daughter, and really need some time to go for a run, read a good book, or just to unwind.

Thanks in advance,

Alla Boutval

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Dear Alla,

Being a parent is stressful. And, as you know, being a special-needs parent can be challenging. Below are some resources for finding qualified caregivers and respite programs, so you can make time to care for yourself and relieve some stress!

Caregiving

•Start with your family, friends, neighbors, and your child’s classmates’ parents. Anyone of these might have a great connection that they never thought of until you asked.
•Ask for childcare recommendations from any of the online autism parent groups you belong to.
•Put a “childcare needed” notice in nearby religious institutions such as churches or synagogues, in your local library, and in colleges or universities with special education programs.
•Ask your child’s pediatrician, teachers, early intervention workers, and therapists for recommendations. See if the aides in your child’s class, or the assistants in your child’s toddler group, are allowed to babysit.
•Search online for special needs’ caretakers, and also look into nanny and child care referral agencies. Be sure to ask for references from other parents who have used their services.
•Contact your local chapter of the following groups that provide support and services to people with disabilities and their families:

o The Arc of Northern Virginia: www.thearcofnova.org703-532-3214
o Autism Society of Northern Virginia: www.asnv.org703-495-8444executivedirector@asnv.org
o Parents of Autistic Children of Northern Virginia: www.poac-nova.org703-391-2251Concerns@POAC-NoVA.org
Respite
Arch Respite provides an online database of respite providers in your area, and also explains out how to pay for respite, available Medicaid Waivers, eligibility criteria for various state funding sources, and links to sites where you can apply for funding or get more information.
The Child Autism Parent Café has some creative ideas for getting good respite providers for your child.
•You can also search Care.com for babysitters and nannies in your area who have experience with children with special needs.
Autism Speaks has suggestions for how to find a respite worker, and also offers a database that you can search for caretakers in your area.
Child Care Aware is a nonprofit agency with a searchable database of local child care resource and referral agencies. They can also help you find quality child care when you call them at (800) 424-2246.
Putting You First 
Once you get used to taking a little time for yourself, you will find that it becomes part of your daily routine, which you won’t want to skip. The benefits to you and your family are well worth it. Now is the perfect time to make a commitment to yourself and improve your life, so go for it!
Purrs and kisses,
Angel

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