Entrusting your child to daycare feels risky: Will these caregivers understand my child? Will they protect and nurture my child and respect their individuality?
Autism can supercharge these concerns. For many parents, it feels like the only choice they have is deciding which of them will stay home with their child. But when stay-at-home parenting isn’t an option, what do you do? Learn some tips for choosing a daycare for an autistic child.
Start With Your Network
No one knows better than other autism parents that each child on the spectrum is unique. There’s no one solution for every kid. But other parents who have navigated the daycare search can offer advice and direction.
They can tell you whether they elected home-based services with support from a Medicaid waiver over daycare center care. They can explain how they opted for an inclusive daycare center where their child would be among neurotypical kids or if they chose a specialized center. They can give you tips on questions to ask, explain things to look for, and share positive or negative experiences they’ve had to provide a starting point for your search.
Look for Experience and Training
Some daycare centers specialize in caring for kids with various needs. They may serve children with a variety of differences, or they may focus exclusively on children on the autism spectrum.
Other daycare centers pursue a path of inclusion. After all, autism now affects one of every 44 children in the US. Most daycare centers should have experience working with children on the spectrum.
If you plan to send your child to public school, an inclusive daycare center provides an opportunity for your child to learn how to cope with a new environment.
It’s also critical to check the credentials and training of the caregivers that lead the center and those they employ. You may want to check your state’s licensure requirements and ensure any center you consider meets or exceeds them.
Check the Environment
Well-equipped daycare centers will maintain a sanitary and welcoming environment while still offering toys and equipment that appeal to a variety of needs and personalities. Daycares with sensory rooms offer children many benefits, so looking for a center with this kind of space can be a great start.
Trust Your Gut
If it doesn’t feel right, the daycare you’re looking at is not the place. Trust your gut about the environment of the daycare centers you tour. If your child has an immediate negative reaction, there’s something going on there that won’t work for them. Respect your child’s sensitivities and move on.
Finding professional daycare for a child with autism is a long and arduous process. Your hard work can pay off if you find a center with the experience, training, and interest in serving kids on the spectrum. If you can’t find such a place, check with your local agencies that serve persons with disabilities and their families. These professionals may be able to suggest an alternative to daycare.