When is the best time to discuss with a prospective au pair candidate that a host child has special needs?
When your child has special needs, you need to be sure in advance that your au pair is up for the challenge.
Many au pair candidates will indicate on their applications that they are open to caring for a child with special needs, and there are also many au pairs who would be great at it but haven’t indicated their interest. The pool of possible candidates may be quite large. But — and this is a big ‘but’ — Dept of State law requires that an au pair have previous skills and experience relevant to caring for a child with special needs.
So, to maximize your chances of finding a great au pair, when do you actually start talking with prospective au pairs about your child’s specific needs?
Do you consider only au pairs who are ‘special needs willing’? (I suspect that some agencies, knowing your situation, would require this.)
Do you go straight to an agency that specializes in au pair candidates with special needs skills?
Or, do you wait until you have identified a candidate you like and who’s interested in your general situation, and then lay out the full details?
Let us know what you think, and share some advice with HM in Napa.
Dear AuPairMom –
We’re halfway through our first year as a HF with an amazing, wonderful AP. Part of our motivation to hire an AP was that our son was language delayed. We wanted to find a caregiver that would become part of a supportive extended family for our son, and the nannies we’d used and interviewed just didn’t seem willing to participate that way.
During the match process with our first au pair, we found out that our son (now 3) was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which has been changed to Autism Spectrum Disorder during our AP’s stay. When we first learned that the delay were more serious than we thought, we wrote our AP (3 months before her arrival) and told her about the changes and what that might mean for her schedule (therapists working with our son, etc.) and offered to release her from the contract. She thanked us for the information and said she still wanted to work with us.
She has turned out to be an amazing and mature young woman and we are sad that she’s chosen not to extend but support her decision to go home for school.
The dilemma is this – now that we have a diagnosis of Autism, how do we approach hiring the next au pair?
Our son has blown away everyone who has worked with him – he’s caught up with his typically developing peers to the point that some of the therapists are telling us to get him out of his mixed typical and special needs preschool (and into the private preschool we’d originally chosen) as fast as we can. Skills that they expected to take 3-4 months to teach have taken 3-4 weeks or less. So, we feel excited that he is learning and growing.
At the same time, he needs firm boundaries and clear communication just like any three year old. He also needs to be prepared thoughtfully for transitions between activities (also like most three year olds).
On top of these needs for our son, our family schedule is unusual. Host Dad is a firefighter/medic, so he’s home and a lot more involved than most of the other Host Families we’ve talked to. HD and I monitor the specialists that work with our son, as does the au pair when she is on duty. Our AP’s schedule varies from week to week.
Our APs suggestion is to not tell anyone about the special needs until we find someone we want to match with and then talk to them about it directly. I feel like now that we have a formal diagnosis, we need to be straight with the agency. However, I’m concerned about being restricted to a smaller pool of au pairs.
- For host parents and au pairs of children with special needs, what has your experience been?
- What do you recommend for finding the right kind(s) of au pairs for our family?
Thanks in advance for your help. HM in Napa
Note: ProAuPair has a specialized program to identify au pairs with significant skills and training for working with children with special needs. (not an affiliate link, not a “referral”)