The expense and worry of finding good childcare are tough enough, but finding childcare for a special needs kid can be nearly impossible. Over time, it is possible that some of our special needs children can stay home alone, though.
My older daughter who will be 17 this winter has been staying home by herself for many years now. She’s emotionally mature, despite her ADHD. Her younger sister has begun expressing that she wants to be able to stay home alone, but there’s a lot of work to be done for us to feel safe and secure with that decision.
Here are some ideas to gage if your special needs child is old enough to stay home alone.
Is My Special Needs Child Old Enough to Stay Home Alone?
1. How important is age?
First, look into your local laws. You must follow those guidelines first and foremost.
Here’s the thing about age and special needs kids. Depending on the special need, your child may have the emotional or mental age of someone much younger than they actually are. My 12 year old is emotionally about 10, maybe less on some days.
Maybe the question should be, how mature is your child?
Here are some things to look for and ask:
- Does your child listen and take directions well? If so, he or she may be mature enough to be left alone for a while. He will need to know how to follow directions when you’re not there.
- Is he able to fix food for himself?
- How does your child feel about being home alone?
- Has your child exhibited responsible behavior in the past?
- Can he make independent decisions?
- Does your child tend to panic or be anxious? High-anxiety children may not be good candidates for being home alone.
2. How Long?
I just recently watched E.T. again on DVD. That movie came out when I was a kid which is 35+ years ago. I was and am struck by the fact that one of the chilren is left at home alone when he’s supposedly running a fever and is sick. He’s not super young, maybe 10 years old at best. This wasn’t for an hour or two, it was for all day while mom is at work and the other kids are at school.
I’ve decided that my youngest can start practicing staying home alone. She got a cell phone for her birthday and we’ll be practicing in 10 minute intervals. I’m not worried about her getting into trouble other than eating all the food in the house, but you never know what they might do, right?
So, with that in mind, we’ll be making short trips away from the house while she stays home alone. We are developing a plan that will include who to call and when to call.
I’m much more confident in this because the phone she has also includes tracking. So, providing she takes her phone with her if she leaves the house, I get a text with google maps that shows me where the phone’s at.
3. How Safe Is Your Neighborhood?
I think it goes without saying that if you live in a crappy neighborhood with lots of crime or seedy neighbors, then your kids aren’t safe at home alone ever. But, if like us, you live in a quiet neighborhood, it’s probably going to be okay.
It helps a lot if you know your neighbors too. This was something we struggled with for many years, but now we know at least a bit, who our neighbors are.
Another thing to consider is how familiar your child is with the neighborhood. My daughter knows where the other kids live and we’ve talked about which neighbors are safe to go to if she’s lost or locked out of the house.
4. Evaluate Your Home
How safe is your home? If your child is in a wheel chair or uses assitive mobility devices, can they easily navigate the house withouth anyone there to help? It would suck to get stuck!
Are your firearms put away out of reach and out of mind? Locked up?
Do they know how to manage any pets that you have? Can they let the dogs in or out safely?
As long as you are within your local laws, the final decision is up to you and your child. If you’re not certain, try leaving your special needs child home alone for very short periods at first, and then work up to longer times. That’s what we are going to be trying over the next few months. I’ll keep you updated.