How on earth do you schedule in a weekend away when there is no one in your support network who can cope with your children (or vice versa) for 48 hours straight? Or maybe you can’t even arrange the occasional night out because it just feels impossible to get appropriate SEN-friendly childcare. Perhaps you don’t have family available to help. Maybe adoption has led to the falling away of some of your previous friendships.
Do you rely on the same tiny pool of childminders – just that one friend or family member? Or are you completely out of ideas after your children’s anxiety-driven behaviours and your family member’s nerves proved to be incompatible?
Here are five ideas you might not have tried when searching for more people who could care for your children and be a great fit for your family.
How can you find childcare for children with additional needs? People you can trust to cope with your child if they have a meltdown, and people who your child knows and feels comfortable with?Desperate for some time off from parenting your child(ren) with additional needs? Want childcare so you can self-care? Here are 5 ways to find the right person to help. Click To Tweet
There are two basic approaches. The first is to ask people who are already in your child’s life.
1 Ask at school
Is there a TA you get on with, or a dinner lady they know and you trust? If you have a good relationship with the SENCO or class teacher, you could ask them for recommendations of people who really understand your child(ren).
2 Try the leaders of your child’s clubs
If you use any services specifically aimed at children with additional needs, such as a club, or if your child has a 1:1 or helper in any other situations, such as Brownies or a sports club, an enquiry about whether they are ever available for childminding can work.
Alternatively, you can seek out someone new. Options for that include…
3 Seek out nursery/preschool staff
Try asking at your local SureStart centre if any of the staff take on childminding work. They often have a good understanding of additional needs and a range of useful solutions up their sleeves! This can work even if your children are well past nursery age. Often nursery staff are either very experienced or very keen to gain extra experience. This makes it a great place to try.
4 Speak to specialist school staff
If your child is in mainstream but you have local SEND specialist schools, they could also be a good place to ask for recommendations. They’re often used to managing complex needs and challenging behaviours. They can therefore be particularly good at understanding that different children respond to different strategies when you’re trying to get them to cooperate!
5 Go digital
Failing these analogue options, you could also try resources such as childcare.co.uk, a site and app which matches you to potential childminders, some of whom have SEND experience. You’ll obviously want to do your own checks to make sure these people are safe and a good fit for your family, but you are not necessarily as stuck as you think you are – the effort you put in to finding just one or two reliable people to help you out can make a huge difference to your ability to take time out. Hello, self-care time!
Once you’ve got to know each other and things are working out, you can look at adding the occasional overnight, if that’s something you’re all comfortable with. And…
6 (Bonus extra) Use holiday clubs
This probably isn’t right for everyone, and it was certainly a big deal in our house. But in the summer holidays we have used a week-long residential holiday club. Last year, only Joanna was old enough, but this year Charlotte was also able to go. They adored it (and made a new friend, who is also adopted, who we are meeting up with again this weekend)! Meanwhile we felt confident enough that they would manage it that we went on holiday in the Cotswolds. This was a couple of hours’ drive away in case of emergencies but a whole world away in terms of relaxation.
We’re Christians, and so the holidays run by the Christian organisation Scripture Union (rubbish name, lovely people) are a good match for us, but there are plenty of others all over the country that are geared to children’s different interests – sports, crafts, all kinds of things. We found the SU staff absolutely amazing when it came to providing 1:1 support and understanding the additional anxiety our children had (until they were enjoying themselves too much to worry about anything).
- Childcare is possible, even if you feel completely stuck at the moment.
- Everywhere your children (or others) are cared for by adults is a potential source of great childminders. If they have SEN experience as part of their remit, so much the better.
- Childcare.co.uk is another great resource. Even here in the sticks, there are people with relevant experience.
- Know a friend who might need to read this? Please share it with them (buttons are below).
- Got your childcare sorted and now have no idea what to do with yourself? Join my self-care club.
- Have more ideas to add? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment to help others out. Thanks!