Finding Child Care for Children With Autism: What Parents Should Consider

If you were to search for child care options for a child with autism, it might seem that your options are limited. Although the Australian government has established some Autistic Specific Early Learning and Care Centres, there aren't exactly many of them, and they're restricted to state and territory capitals. However, these centres aren't the only places capable of offering safe and supportive daycare to your child. Some homework will be required to find the best daycare environment for your child.

Getting Recommendations

Crowdsourcing the relevant information can simplify your search. If you know any other parents with autistic children, you can ask them about their child care arrangements. In a similar vein, are you involved with any autism support groups? Even if you're not, you can reach out to ask for their recommendations. They should be able to point you in the direction of suitable child care options in your area. 

Key Pieces of Information

Whether you have a list of possible options or are starting from scratch, there are a few key pieces of information that you'll need to clarify. For starters, you need to determine what type of child care a potential centre offers. Do you need standard centre-based daycare (at an actual centre), or do you prefer family daycare (overseen by a qualified educator in a private home)? Although both formats are capable of providing care for a child with autism, centre-based daycare may offer more opportunities for socialisation skills, and can be more reliable since they're at a fixed location with fixed operating times and have the necessary staffing to compensate for staff illness or other complications. This consistency and the resulting familiarity may be more beneficial for a child with autism.

Questions to Ask

There are also relevant questions that you should ask any potential centre:

  • Do they have experience caring for children with autism?
  • What types of autism-specific strategies do they use? This can include the dedicated establishment of a routine for your child while at the centre, and the use of visual learning aids.
  • Does the centre provide any specialised schemes that may be useful for a child with autism, such as speech and language programs?  

You should also provide any potential centre with detailed information about your child's needs and their functioning level. Both you and the centre need to be sure that the arrangement is going to be a good fit.

Suitable child care can be difficult to find, regardless of any special needs the child may have. You're certainly able to find the best possible care for your child, but it may require some research on your part.