Mother of Chaos

Julie Tittler's experience as a caregiver.

This post originally appeared on SitterCycle.com on July 22, 2014 and is used here by permission.

All parents dread the day when they have to gather their courage and hand off care of their precious children to someone else. After all, it's a terrifying prospect to leave this vulnerable love-of-your-life with someone else, even if that someone else is a family member. It's particularly hard when your knowledge of the caregiver‐to‐be is limited to an interview, a background check, and some references. Many thoughts go through your head: How actively will she watch my kid? How will she react when my kid acts up? Will she yell and scream, spank, give perpetual timeouts, or take a more relaxed approach? Will she listen to what my child is really saying? What will she feed them? Now, take these fears, magnify them ten­‐fold, and add a bunch more to the list if your child has special needs.

Finding a special needs nanny can be hard, especially since special needs can be many different things, from autism to special medical needs, and different needs require different skills. There is so much to know, and so much to learn. By necessity, these parents are continually learning and training themselves to handle the issues involved. As hard as it is for parents to handle special needs, there is no guarantee that a caregiver can be found with a similar level of understanding and commitment.

That being said, the market for trained caregivers for special needs kids is large, untapped, and potentially lucrative. Parents of special needs children are desperate for a chance, even a small and sporadic one, for a break. As a caregiver targeting the special needs nanny market, you'll need to be prepared to answer some specific questions. While what these questions are will vary depending on the special needs involved, there are some commonalities:

cat-in-fieldMental disorders have some of the most significant and enduring social stigmas of any conditions out there. This is why no one speaks of them. They sweep them under the rug, and lock them in the attic. It's why so many cases go undiagnosed for years, and health coverage for these conditions are limited when compared to physical maladies. With no outward physical manifestations, they are the ugly, unloved stepchildren of the frail human condition.

No matter how much people proclaim otherwise, we are all judged at first glance by our outward appearance and behavior. But, just because someone looks normal, it doesn't mean that there isn't something wrong--that the person needs help, patience, and compassion. You may just see someone with a really short fuse and aggressive temper. Someone with no social skills or little empathy. Someone who has really annoying habits like perpetually humming, chewing their fingernails, or periodically grunting. They are the "weird" ones. Better stay away from them. You never know WHAT they'll do. What you don't see is that the person with the short temper has severe ADHD; his emotions are physically amplified 10 times and he's never received any treatment for the condition so functioning day-to-day is an absolute horrendous slog. The weird co-worker who is socially awkward and terminally shy, albeit great at her job, has Asperger's. The old woman down the street who yells at the kids all the time is severely depressed because she has lost her son to cancer. That person humming, and chewing his fingernails needs the physical stimulation to be able to focus on tasks at hand.

This is the first of what may be a series of posts on Julie Tittler's experience with an experimental medication for her son's ADHD.

strawWhat do you do when all the approved options for treating a condition don't work? When failure isn't an option because it means death or disability to the point of being non-functional? What do you do, when the care recipient is a child? You never give up hope. You perpetually grasp at straws.

This past week, my family had to take a deep breath and step into the unknown. My son has exceptionally severe ADHD, hyperactive and inattentive. Both criteria are off the scales. It is such a severe case of ADHD that without medication, he can't even feed himself because he's off like a flash mentally and physically. He can't concentrate long enough to eat, no less do any type of academics. We've been able to help his super hyperactivity with medication adequately. He's still hyper, but it's much more manageable.