Special Needs

5 Things I've Learned Working With Special Needs Kids

Hi everyone! Today I wanted to make a little list of things i've learned while working with special needs kids. Being in the special needs childcare field is so important to me and i’ve learned a lot about myself and what i've improved on by being in the field and thought I would share.

  1. To Stop Comparing

Working with typically developing kids and working with special needs kids I would say the biggest differentiating factor is learning that their milestones and development are happening at a different rate. This of course doesn’t alter that exciting, screaming ‘you did it’ feeling in the slightest. Why would it? I never look at what my typically developing children are doing in comparison to what my special needs kids are doing nor do I compare what one child with special needs is doing to another. There are so many different complexities in each child it’s impossible to try to keep everyone side by side on one developmental train. I’ve found it’s best to know your child, know what works best for them and push them in a way that is beneficial for them. 

2. Other Kids Ask Questions, Be Prepared

I love when were out where there’s large groups of kids like the park or a play center and kids come up to ask questions. Usually they ask questions just because they're a little unsure and want the green light to go play crazy with my kids or just want to know why. Curiosity isn't something that should be negated, especially in younger kids, and I am always reassuring parents that it’s much better to approach the child’s caregiver and ask questions versus not getting all the information and the subject of special needs becoming some sort of taboo. 

3. People Who Work With Special Needs Kids are Not Superheroes

Whenever I am talking to people about my job and future education goals working with special needs kids comes up. More often than not people will get a look of sympathy or guilt and congratulate me on wanting to go into that field. Caregivers who work with special needs kids are not doing anything that requires that type of reaction, we’re doing our job.  No, it’s not easy, but point me to an easy child to take care of. 

4. Patience and Creativity Go Hand in Hand

Some days can get rough and I have had to pull patience from out of nowhere, more than once, and that usually includes making up a game on the spot or making up a new song and dance.

5. To Look at All Sides At All Times

One annoying thing about myself is that I can never pick a side, I can’t lay things out and only see two options which is great when working in childcare and horrible when trying to find a place to eat. Working with different special needs families i’ve found two children can have the same disability, be the same age and are different developmentally and emotionally. Again like I said earlier, same for typically developing kids. By knowing everyone is wired differently, everyones processing for different situations is different it’s so hard not to see an argument or discussion and get an understanding for each individual factor and everyone’s thinking. 

I am sure as time goes on I will come back and expand on this list! Thanks for reading!


-Lauren

Learning to Communicate Nonverbally

This post is going to be a little different. It’s not really an advice blog but just more of my experience with first working with kids who have special needs and are nonverbal or typically developing kids who just prefer to communicate through sign language. 

 

 

When I first began working with children who have special needs a big part of my adjustment was learning to slow down and communicate non verbally. Working in childcare, and generally being with toddlers, the kids i’ve watched that have been typically developing talked a mile a minute and so to begin working with kids who have special needs or with kids whose parents taught them sign language at an early age weren’t as talkative as I was used to. 

 

To go from being with toddlers and kids who are able to communicate their needs quickly and loudly to kids who communicate through sign or actions was a bit of an adjustment. The first big problem I had that frustrated me was not being able to know the child’s needs quickly. It’s different going from a child talking a mile a minute and telling you what they need versus having to ask and not get a verbal answer. My first experience with having to watch a child who was nonverbal was frustrating not because I was annoyed with the child for not being able to tell me anything but with myself because at the time I didn’t know any sign language or how to be able tell from the child’s actions what they needed. As a nanny it’s my job to keep my charges safe and happy and to feel like I couldn’t do that to the best of my capability made me want to pull my hair out, to say the least. 

 

One of my biggest help in being able to build my confidence and patience was watching the kids interact with other sitters and take note of the kinds of questions and energy that they brought around the kids. I would never want a child to feel uncomfortable with me or feel like i’m not understanding them so it was comforting to see other caretakers going through the same round of questions and having to figure out what the child needed. Another was forcing myself to learn the basic sign language signs and practice it with my kids. Since sign sort of turns into the best way for them to learn new words teaching them new vocabulary with sign language was a great way in helping them learn new things and building up our communication. 

It still gets tricky sometimes but looking back on my nanny life from when i've started i've made huge progress and just thought i'd share. Until next time, thanks for reading!

 

-Lauren