Lucky Number Six

12 Jul

Being a parent is hard. You have to deal with conflicts, challenges, lack of sleep, lack of privacy, loss of self-identity, turmoil, guilt, worry, heartache, tears, and the reality of never being able to eat a full meal without interruption. And that’s just with a regular kid.

When you add autism into the mix, you also add the sensory challenges, meltdowns, communication issues, various other autism-related challenges, guilt piled on you by the media and other parents because you chose to vaccinate your child, and uncomfortable stares and rude comments from strangers in grocery stores.

All parents need a break sometimes. Especially parents of children with autism or other special needs. We love our kids, and recognize that in order to be better for them, we need to take care of ourselves.

This is why God created respite workers, and for some lucky parents, the funding to pay for them.

Our respite worker adventures are in their fourth year. In that time, we have gone through five workers, and we have just started on our sixth.

Our first worker was fantastic. We found her at the daycare George went to. She was his favourite teacher there. And so, when she left the daycare and asked us if we would like her to do respite work with George, we jumped at it. Both of the kids loved her, and George eagerly anticipated his times with her. After two years with us, she called me with the news that she had suffered a relapse of breast cancer and needed to take time out to focus on her health. We were sad to see her go, but we completely understood.

After a search of about three months, we found a new respite worker. George took to her right away. She was organized but creative, firm but kindly. She engaged George in a very positive way. She was a lovely, lovely person, and we could tell that she had a gift for working with special needs children. Unfortunately for us, one of the therapy centres recognized the same gift in her, and hired her full-time as an instructor/therapist. She gave us plenty of notice, so that we could find a replacement before she left.

Respite worker #3 was easy enough to find. On paper she looked great. Lots of experience with special needs kids, working towards an early childhood education qualification, and sister to someone with autism. We thought this woman had it all, right down to the personal experience with her own brother.

She turned out to be spiteful and vindictive. She lasted for precisely two sessions, one of which had been a handover session with Respite worker #2.

On to Respite worker #4. We found her through an ad we placed in a local newspaper. She came for an interview, and seemed to interact well with George. We liked her, we hired her, and she agreed to start the following week. Unbeknownst to us, though, she had been actively seeking full-time employment and got offered a job a couple of days before she was due to start with us.

At this point, I was ready to throw up my hands in despair. Good respite workers – the ones who are good at what they do, are nice people, and stick around for longer than it takes to make a cup of coffee – are like gold dust.

I placed another ad, and got a number of responses. We settled on a very nice, down-to-earth lady. When she came for the interview, she produced a binder containing her resume, police clearance, references, and various CPR and First Aid certificates. The details that impressed me on her resume were that she had been with one of her respite families for about ten years, and the other one for even longer. This woman had a history of staying with her families, and she even spoke about the benefits of building a long-term relationship with the child. We liked her, we hired her. She started the following week.

And then, as fate would have it, a close family member of hers was seriously injured in an accident, and another close family member had a heart attack and needed bypass surgery. Our new respite worker had to temporarily suspend work so she could take care of her family. After a break of a month or so, she came back, but that only lasted for two weeks. One of her family members relapsed, and she had to take time off again. She stopped replying to my texts and returning calls, and as nice and all as she was, I had to make the decision to cut her loose.

And now, as of yesterday, we have started with Respite worker #6. I am hesitant to make any sweeping statements at this point, but she seems to have been dropped into our laps by the smiling gods of fate. She has been a student volunteer in George’s classroom for the last two years. She knows him, and she seems to like him. He seems to like her.

I am really hoping she will be our Lucky Number Six.


2 Responses to “Lucky Number Six”

  1. S Club Mama July 12, 2011 at 12:06 PM #

    How do you get that respite help? lol some days I need that.

    • runningforautism July 13, 2011 at 5:47 PM #

      The short answer is: with difficulty. So far Number Six is working out, but it’s only been two sessions. We’ll see what happens…

      Thanks for reading!

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