Better Babysitters for My Angel Are Worth the Extra Effort

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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Choosing a babysitter for my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, is no easy task. My goal is to choose the best caregiver to stand in for us when my husband and I leave home. I don’t mind taking a few extra steps to ensure a great fit.

We’ve been fortunate to have two awesome babysitters for Juliana for many years now. Each brings something different to the table, but we trust and respect both of them.

Rachel has kept Juliana and her 10-year-old sister, Jessa, since they were babies. The new addition to our babysitting realm is our neighbor Sydney. Sydney is now in her early 20s and has been watching both girls since she was in high school.

There have been other sitters throughout the years, but sometimes even the sweetest of them haven’t been the right fit. We must have someone who won’t freak out if Juliana has a meltdown or is in a fussy mood. The anxiety she sometimes exhibits is common for Angels. Still, her behavior can be overwhelming. Caring for a kiddo with Angelman syndrome is not for everyone.

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No simple feat

Given all of these caveats, I’m always reluctant to consider any addition to our babysitting crew. It was my husband’s prompting the other day that made me think about it.

“I’m happy with our babysitters,” I told him. “Who is this person you want me to consider?”

“She babysits for Angie,” he responded. “When I saw her a few weeks ago, she said her babysitter was looking for more work. She thinks her babysitter would be a good fit for us.”

Angie is a trusted friend. And although I’m happy with Rachel and Sydney, it wouldn’t hurt to have another competent caregiver join our crew.

In the past, I’ve tried child care agencies and message boards. But word of mouth has worked best for us. Because I have a background in human resources, I use some of the same screening practices I would use to find a great employee.

First, I talk with the person on the phone. I explain Angelman syndrome and ask about the comfort level of keeping a child with special needs. If there is a connection with a friend or a family member who has special needs, I try to get more details about their interactions.

Next is an invitation to our home for a face-to-face meeting. I give a short tour of our house with a focus on Juliana’s room and some of her favorite toys. I also pull out her iPad and explain how she uses her device to communicate. If the person is new to our family, I give her a chance to read Juliana’s greeting card, which is how we introduce Juliana and Angelman syndrome to new people.

Moment of truth

Finally, the truest test follows: meeting Juliana. I schedule a time when Juliana isn’t sleepy or overstimulated. Sometimes we’ll meet at snack time so that the potential babysitter can watch me interact with Juliana and help with her food.

The most important part of this entire process is seeing the connection with Juliana. I set up a place for all three of us to play and chat. Ladybug, Juliana’s favorite toy, is always a part of the exchange. Playtime keeps the moment light. But I also get to see how the sitter might engage with Juliana. After 10 minutes of play or snack time, we say our goodbyes.

When I’ve decided that a sitter might be a good fit, I schedule a trial run. We pay the sitter to come over, but we don’t leave. Instead, I go over our routine and model how to help Juliana navigate the stairs and transition for bathroom breaks. The trial run is a step I don’t rush or skip. I see this visit as on-the-job training.

Finding the right babysitter for my Angel is a process that takes time and a little extra effort. However, the added steps are worth it. When we leave Juliana with a sitter whom we have vetted and trained, I feel confident she’s in good hands while we are away.

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


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