Respite care refers to the intervention of a third party to take over the care of Down syndrome children so parents can have some time for themselves to relax and recoup their energy. Because Down syndrome is not considered an acute illness or problem, most cases of respite care take the form of camps or trips where children can go away under the care of professionals and parents can stay behind to relax at home. Read on to learn more about how to provide respite care for families of Down syndrome.
Look for a sleep-away camp that takes Down syndrome children for a period of at least a few days. Camps that take children with disabilities are equipped with experts and professionals that can make the experience safe and useful for the kids involved, while allowing parents to relax without having to worry about the care of their children.
Search for local community activities that integrate families. This can take the form of workshops, classes or group activities in which both children and parents work together, or it can be a place where children can spend a few hours and parents are able to drop them off and pick them up later.
Find a support group or at least connect with other families that also have children with Down syndrome. If you cannot locate respite care options in your community, you may be able to provide that for each other by taking turns babysitting both children for an afternoon and giving the other parents the time off.
Contact the National Respite Locater Service to find a professional service in your area. See the Resources section below for a link. The website offers a large database of camps, day classes, childcare options and other ideas on who to approach for a safe and reliable experience.
Consider other agencies. Many state offices provide free or low-cost services and are worth looking into. Agencies that specialize in Down syndrome respite care help include the State Department of Mental Retardation, the State Program for Children with Special Health Care Needs and the Department of Mental Health and Social Services.
Look for an in-home care service that specializes in children with special needs. Social services offices, recreation centers and community outreach programs may offer this, but you may also be able to find it by simply contacting babysitting centers and ask if they offer care for disabled children.
Even if you don't plan frequent vacations, respite care is important in case an emergency comes up and you need a place or person to leave your child with while you take care of the problem.