Sunday, March 29, 2015

Working With Autism: Control

So I also babysit other families. As I type I’m sitting next to Tyler, he’s one of the boys in my first grade group in the after care program that I work at, who’s 6 and has autism. We’ve been playing Mario on the Wii for about 2 hours now when I told him I needed to finish up some homework when I passed my remote to his older brother, Matthew, who’s 12. Matthew is also a hardcore gamer, so Mario is no challenge. I have been working with autistic kids for years now, and one of the most important things I have to remember is that they want to constantly be in control of the situations that they’re in. With this in mind, when I saw Matthew beating him I see Tyler getting frustrated. His body tensed up, and you could hear the voice that comes from his belly getting louder. When you see something triggering a meltdown, you have to find what emotion is being pushed past the breaking point. Ellen Notbohm from the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew describes a meltdown from an autistic child’s point of view. “Meltdowns and blow-ups are more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload, or because I’ve been pushed past the limit of my social abilities. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented.” It’s different for everyone though. Each child is unique, so planning a course of action must also be unique. With Tyler, he is one of the sweetest and loving kids I’ve ever met…but when he gets upset you see true aggression. Now calming him down is the next step. Now, these children take everything quite literally, and they answer everything truthfully. Talking it out with him and explaining what the positive outcomes of working together could be helps. I told Tyler that by watching Matt, he could learn and get better at what he was playing. It’s like tying your shoes: at first, there are these two pieces of string, but by the time you’ve learned how to tie them, there are presents on your feet every day.

13th Times the Charm

In my first post I talked about how you need to get to know the kids, because through the kids you actually learn a lot about the parents. Sometimes you meet a kid and you think you’ve figured them out right off the bat. The two extremes that I see the most are the really shy and the motor-mouths. I’m currently a nanny to four adorable and wild kids. Liza, 6, Mickey, 7, Ally, 9, and Sammy, 11: girl, boy, girl, boy. 4 kids in 5 years. It’s pretty crazy, really. The first weekend was fun and just like one giant sleepover really. I was 18 when I started and I really did think it’d be just like a Disney Channel TV show, and it was. It was, that is, for the first weekend. The kids are little people, we have to remember. When you first meet someone, you want to show them your best you, but as time goes on your true colors begin to show. And boy, do these kids have some BRIGHT colors. Through the kids, I learned that I was the thirteenth nanny. Since the oldest is 11, they were roughly averaging one nanny a year. I’ve met two of their past nannies who have also lasted for years, they just work at different times and schedules. You can always tell whom their great nannies were by how much they talk about them, and their rankings. The kids have ranked all their nannies, I’m Sammy’s #1 but with the rest I’m #3, which I still consider a great ranking after 13 nannies. After a few weeks I realized the impact that all the nannies had made. Now, I’m only 8 years older than Sammy which he loves to remind me, but I find my age as a strength. I’m young enough to be an older sister, and that’s what I try to act like . I’ll continue to act like a sister because I love these kids so much, even though sometimes I mommy them. But because of my age, their dad can be skeptical at times about leaving four kids alone with a “child.” Age is but a number.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I have learned so much from the kids I have been working with. In the circles that their family runs in and also working at a school, you learn that this is definitely not a job for the faint of heart. There are things that no one will share with you, and things that the kids parents will never know just because of their perspective on how to raise their child(ren). There's a show on Disney Channel called Jessie that shows how happy, perky, fun and easy being a nanny is. I think that represents about 60% of the "job." The other 40% is really trying to help raise them to be the best people they can be, without actually raising them.
1. Finding A Job
The two sites that I highly recommend are and NEVER go looking on Craigslist unless you're looking for trouble. I'm not saying that they're all creeps, but it is most likely. When creating a profile remember that you're asking people to invite you into their homes and care for their prize possessions. So you have to ask yourselves, what would you be searching for in an optional family member? Show them what you have that fits that magical description. Your profile picture is also important. You want to cater to both parents and give off an appropriate, loving, happy and inviting ambiance. You should try to be a modern-day Mary Poppins honestly.
2. The Interview
Once again, this is no ordinary job. Consider yourself applying to be a part-time parent, a friend, a disciplinarian, an optional family member. If you keep that mindset, that's how you really get the job.
This interview is also about you: you are interviewing them. Make sure you set up the first interview in a public place, getting their names and phone number. Do your homework on them as I hope they would do on you. Think of it as an online date, you'd never meet a stranger without some backup internet stalking just because they had a pretty profile. Safety comes first.
3. Meeting The Kids
In a recent interview for an assistant director position for an after school program, they asked me what my biggest weakness was, and I told them that it was to have the kids like me. Yes, we all want the kids to like us, but f that's your only focus on the first day, they will walk all over you. I don't mean lay out all the rules the second you get there, but don't let them get away with everything. Also, remember to send out feelers with the parents on how they discipline their kids. Some parents can be very harsh and some are easy-going. It takes time to get to know the kids, and they want to know you too. And just so you know, you might fall in love with these kids before you really know them.
The rest is learnt along the way, but these are the first few steps to being a modern Mary.