I have been working with a company, The Respite Connection, that has been supporting special needs children in Iowa. This company is a group of trained employees that work with children of all sorts of disabilities and basically just be a friend to them. There are set rules through the company such as the parents can NOT be at work while you are working with a child, they can only be doing things such as running errands or catching up on house work. The purpose of a repsite provider is to give the parents a chance to get some work done, and also have some time to themselves. The parents of special needs children often times do not get much time to themselves. It is my job to allow them to feel comforted knowing their child is in good hands. I provide respite care for these families in their home, or also at my home. It is up to the parents to decide what they feel more comfortable with.
I have had proper training and have been working with a client for 3 years. I feel that this experience has helped me with not only with getting to know the children better, but also with my communication with these children and my ability to also communicate with the parents as well. I feel that the parents really rely on me to tell them what happened while they were out, the activities we worked on, and how I helped their child.
I felt it was important to work on basic activities that cater to each child's needs. For Beth*, a child dealing with autism, I worked on using her words. She had a problem with just yelling when she did not get what she wanted. She eventually started using words and forming sentences, but it took her many steps to get to this level. At first, I made little cards for her to use when she wanted to say something or if she wanted something. The cards had pictures of everyday activities that she may need to ask or tell me to do. She would show me a card when she needed something. This worked out really well for awhile, and Beth really liked this method of communication. She felt that she could tell me what she needed, without using her words.
This was not good enough for me though. I wanted her to be able to tell me exactly what it was that she wanted, but using complete sentences. She started using words when I took her cards away. This made me thrilled!! She was using her words to tell me what she wanted for some things, but not others. And she was also not using complete sentences. But I left it at this with her. With Beth, you can't push her too far. She used her words about 75% of the time, and used the cards for others. She would say specific words, and use cards for others. I felt that she used words for the more simple words, and cards for the more complex.
We are currently still trying to get her to use her words for everything, but it is a work in process. Beth has been a huge part of my life, and communication has been the key aspect of furthering her development and bettering our relationship. If I could do one thing differently, it would be to come up with a transition between the cards and words. It took Beth a long time to get to use her words. So I would try to come up with a better transition activity. At this point, I am not sure how I would do that. I felt that the cards really helped her alot. And her parents were very thrilled with her progress as well. This was a great communication activity to use with any special needs students, and really taught me alot about communication and also about how to work with special needs students.
*the names have been changed to keep the confidentiality of my client