Autism for parents

What would the criteria be for an autism support worker or caregiver?

Parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) know how daunting it can be to look after their own child.  They know that at times things can be easy and peaceful, and they also fully understand the communication and behavioral challenges of day to day living with a child on the spectrum.  So, when it comes to employing an autism support worker or caregiver (autism nanny) it can feel overwhelming and impossible.

For many parents the thought of leaving their non-verbal child with a stranger is debilitating.  In the same breath it is essential to have help at home.  Not just for working families but also for rest and for when the autism schools or autism therapy centers close for the holidays.

What would the criteria be for an autism support worker or caregiver?

  1. For the non-verbal child a good support worker or nanny would need a full understanding of autism. They would need to understand why the child does not speak.  The care worker will need to be shown non-verbal communication cues and taught how to communicate with the child should the child be on a supportive device or AAC.
  2. For the verbal child that has a special interest the support worker may need the ability to have random and intense conversations about a variety of subjects. She /he will need to be computer literate to do research when required on topics and to support the child’s need for information.
  3. Children with echolalia or speech scripting will again require an autism specialist nanny that understands the speech challenges of the child. Because communication difficulties are one of the biggest aggression triggers.
  4. Patience is a non-negotiable criterion for the autism support worker. Children on the spectrum tend to take longer to do things and verbal children often repeat questions a dozen or more time in one day.
  5. We recommend having a dedicated person look after your child. Not a person that is also required to cook or clean or wash, iron or do the laundry.  A non-distracted nanny means you have a person that will get to know your child fully (just like you do).
  6. Autism specialists will understand that autistic children do not always see danger. They will understand eloping behaviors and will know not to leave doors and windows open or a child unsupervised on a playground.  They will also understand that distractions like social media on their phones can cause drowning or serious injury for a child that have an affinity to water.
  7. Good support will have the ability to laugh and play and have fun with your child.
  8. Planning days and being creative is another non-negotiable criterion for a good autism support worker because a bored autistic child is an impossible child. The care worker will need to keep your child stimulated and busy.
  9. If your child has sensory integration challenges the assistant will need to understand SI and how to help you child during a meltdown.
  10. Each child on the spectrum is unique and each has their own strengths and challenges. Make so you match your child’s support worker with your child.  Some children will require help with nappies or wiping and cleaning in the bathrooms, other may require help with feeding, grooming, or getting dressed.   Teenagers with autism will require different support to the toddler with autism.
Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.