Amazing Au Pairs

Childcare for Children with Autism – Finding Someone You Can Trust

According to the Talk About Curing Autism website, “More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined”.  They state that as of April 2012 1 in 88 children have autism compared to the CDC’s December 2009 report of 1 in 110 children.  Obviously this is a growing issue that presents new challenges to families.  One major concern for working families is child care.  Many child care facilities feel they cannot meet the needs of these children and parents are left feeling frustrated and hurt.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports “Thirty-nine percent of the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder reported that child care problems had greatly affected their employment decisions.”

KidsHealth offers these tips to people caring for children with autism.

  • Follow the child’s routine, especially at bedtime or mealtime. Kids with autism prefer structure and can get upset if routines are different from what they’re used to.
  • Ask the parents about the child’s favorite toys so you can play with them. Go slowly. One tactic is to sit alongside the child and mimic his play. That might attract his attention and lead him to join you.
  • Special toys can help you encourage the child to cooperate. For example, you might say, “If you brush your teeth, you can play with your toy car.”
  • Don’t be offended if the child decides to play alone or limits interactions with you. This is part of the disorder.
  • Maintain a calm environment. For example, skip a trip to the playground when you know a neighborhood gathering is likely there. Avoid bringing your friends or other people the child may not know into the home.
  • Go slowly when it comes to physical contact. Find out from the parents how their child reacts to affection. A quick hug or light tickle could set off a child with autism.

 

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Celeste is an au pair from South Africa for a family in Arizona with a child with autism.  She has shared her experiences with us.

Did you have experience with special needs or autistic children before you went to your host family’s house?

I had worked as a high school teacher back in my home country for two years.  In a school environment you deal with a lot of different children.  I have a special needs friend and family members with dyslexia, but other than that I can’t say that I have experience in working with special needs children.  I was aware of the fact that it wasn’t going to be easy, and I also knew that I would gain a lot of experience and personal growth in working with this family.
2.       What did the family do to help you get to know their children?

They gave me a neat family handbook with information on each person’s personality.

3.       What is challenging about working with children who have autism?

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One needs a lot of patience and understanding, and I think the most challenging for me is that a lot of the things they do and the way they act will sometimes seem like its naughty child behavior.  But truth is that they act in certain ways we don’t understand because of things they’re struggling to cope with and because the understanding of social cues doesn’t come natural to them.

4.        What do you love about working with children with autism?

I love that every day is a challenge.  I love how much I learn each and every day, not just about them and autism, but also how much I learn about myself.  They helped me look at the world in a different way and appreciate that I have health and friends.  I love how they find things fascinating that we overlook every day.  It’s fulfilling to see how they make progress every day and how far they have come.  They are remarkable kids and I’m very proud and feel very privileged to be a part of their lives.

5.       Do you feel you make these children’s lives better?  How?

I feel that they make my life better.  Being with them every day is fun and they put a smile on my face.  They get really excited and enthusiastic about things they’re really interested in.  Even just hiking or baking brownies.  I guess I make their lives better by showing them love and understanding and by helping to teach them live skills every day.

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6.        What activities do you like to do with them?

We like to go hiking, play at the park and swimming.  S. enjoys painting, singing, dancing, reading and playing dress up.  They like to play “Just Dance” on the Wii.  A. loves to talk and watch videos about the weather, fireworks and explosions.  He also loves to sit outside when there’s a storm coming and watch the clouds and lightning. The boys really enjoy to do science experiments and to make their own crystals.  J. likes to swim, watch cartoons, play board games, read and help me bake cookies or brownies.  We also enjoy going to the Children’s and Science Museums together.

Au Pair International has au pairs with experience with children with autism.  Check out some of their profiles.

 

Maria G.

Marypaz A.

 

Fun with Food

Healthy and Fun Snacks for Kids!


Parents want their kids to eat healthy, but au pairs often have a difficult time getting their kids to eat healthy foods.  Here are some fun ideas for easy snacks that parents or au pairs can make with their kids.

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Fresh Made NYC has a great recipe for Amazing Rainbow Hummus.  The colors are so amazing and you can dip pitas bread, pita chips, veggies and crackers.

 

 

 

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The Nourishing Home has these fun Fruit and Cheese Kabobs.  What a great way to get kids to try different cheese by cutting them into fun shapes.  You could also cut shapes out of melons and use different berries to bring a lot of color into the snack.

 

 

 

HFufo

 

 

 

What kid wouldn’t love to wake up to an UFO on their plate?  Spoonful.com has this great, protein-rich recipe for a bagel and hard-boiled egg UFO.  Aliens not included.

 

 

 

 

 

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How cute is this Very Hungry Caterpillar snack from Cute Food for Kids.  You could read the book together and then pretend to be the Very Hungry Caterpillar while you much this healthy snack.

 

 

 

 

 

What are some fun and healthy snacks you like to make with kids?

News

Bill Clinton Believes Supporting Tourism Encourages Peace

Bill Clinton. Image by CAPAF
Bill Clinton. Image by CAPAF

“What I have seen is that peace works better than conflict, and one of the best manifestations of it is in travel and tourism,” – Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton was in Abu Dhabi yesterday to speak at the World Travel and Tourism Council summit.  Alex Francis with Cheapflight travel blog says, “Bill Clinton has said that tourism can be a force for good in the world, and has the power to bring peace and change things for the better.”

I personally have seen the truth of this in my work with the Au Pair Exchange Program.  Most people don’t realize that the Au Pair Program was established by the U.S. Department of State to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  From their website: “Through the Au Pair program, participants and host families take part in a mutually rewarding, intercultural opportunity. Participants can continue their education while experiencing everyday life with an American family, and hosts receive reliable and responsible childcare from individuals who become part of the family.”

Through my work with Au Pair International I have had the opportunity to have women from Japan, Paraguay, Thailand, Germany, China and Moldova come and stay with me and my family.  It has been an amazing experience for my children to learn about these beautiful countries and their rich cultures.  It has instilled in us a desire to see the world and meet different people.

The au pairs also have the opportunity to learn so much.  Many come to the U.S. only knowing what they see in the movies.  They have the unique experience of staying with a family and participating with them like a member of the family.  They come away from this experience having strengthened their English, broadened their global understanding and gained a personal confidence in their own abilities and worth.  Many go on to do amazing things.

So I encourage you to take the opportunity to travel and really experience a different culture and people.  Don’t be afraid to really get to know the people and places you visit.  Share with your children the value of each culture, language and people.  By doing so, you will be helping to promote worldwide peace and understanding.

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Lisa Kempton is the Director of Domestic Programs with Au Pair International. She has been helping families and au pairs in the Au Pair Exchange Program for 5 years. You can follow her on twitter.

Candidates, Day to Day

Top 7 Unexpected Reasons to get an Au Pair

The typical reason for getting an au pair is “I go to work and need someone to care for my kids” and sometimes “I want my kids to learn a certain language”.  While these are great reasons that people get an au pair, there are some other benefits that people don’t always think about.

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1. Your au pair can move with you.  One of the hardest things about moving is finding new childcare for your children, especially if you work odd hours.  We have several families who move a couple of times per year or have several houses that they split their time between.  They love that they can bring their au pair from location to location and have consistent, loving childcare.

2. Your au pair can travel with you.  If you go on lots of business trips or family vacations, you can bring your au pair with you so you don’t have to be away from your children or try to find childcare along the way.

3. Your au pair can tutor your children.  Many families get au pairs to teach their children a new language, but most of our au pairs have some college and a lot of au pairs have graduated with degrees in things like Economics, Physiotherapy, Law, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Political Science, Social Work,  Tourism Management, Environmental Science, Advertising Design, Medical Assisting, or Business Administration.  These au pairs have a lot of knowledge that they can pass on to your children.

4. Your au pair can coach your children in different skills and hobbies.  Many au pairs are experienced in different activities such as  violin, painting, tennis, dance, guitar, baking, piano, swimming, aerobics, and yoga.  Wouldn’t it be great to get a childcare provider and piano teacher in one?  Or maybe your au pair can teach you whole family about yoga or some other activity.  Most au pairs have many skills that they would love to share with your family.

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5. Your au pair can be a taxi driver.  Some families don’t need childcare as much as a taxi driver, especially if they have older children.  Whether it’s running kids to school, activities or appointments, au pairs can take over those responsibilities so you can focus on your responsibilities.

6. Your au pair can be the night nanny. Some families choose to have their au pair take the night shift so they can spend more quality time with the children during the day.

7. Your au pair can be a nurse.  Some of our au pairs are trained as nurses (Aliona, DeuRe) or speech therapists (Ju Yeon).  Others have experience with special needs children (Anna, Karen, and Thandeka).  If you have a child that has special needs, many au pairs are uniquely qualified to give your child the one-on-one attention that will help your child learn and grow.  Also, all au pairs can care for your children when they are sick so you don’t have to miss work.
What are some different reasons that you would like to have an au pair?

Au Pair Advice, Host Family Questions

HF Q’s: My new au pair is about to arrive. What should I expect?

Congratulations on getting your new au pair!  What an exciting time.  It is a good idea to have realistic expectations so your match can get started off on the right track.

Arrival – As excited as your au pair is going to be chances are she is also going to be wiped out.  The regulations state that au pairs cannot be responsible for the children during the first 3 days after arrival so that they can have time to acclimate to your home and the US.  It is a good idea to use this time to help her to get to know your home and family.  Don’t plan anything too big during the first few days and give her a chance to settle in.

Driving – Even the best of drivers can be intimidated by driving in the US.  Our roads and vehicles are bigger than they are used to and many countries don’t have the same standards of driving.  We recommend all au pairs get a US drivers license but many can drive on their country’s license.  Be prepared to ease your au pair into driving and don’t get frustrated if she doesn’t pick it up right away.

Homesickness – As you can imagine being away from friends and family isn’t easy for anyone.  Add to that being in a different country and speaking a different language and it can get quite difficult.  Encourage your au pair to get out and meet people.  Starting on her education is a good start, but there are a lot of other possibilities.  Churches, international student organizations, meet up groups, rec leagues and ethnic restaurants are good places to meet new people.  Your Area Director will have some ideas for your area.

A good piece of advice is to treat your au pair how you would want someone to treat your son or daughter if they were staying with them.  If you always keep that in mind, then you won’t go wrong.

 

*** ADVICE TO AU PAIRS***

Remember that while your host family, Area Director and agency are here to help you, ultimately your happiness is up to you.  You have an amazing opportunity to gain so many new and beneficial experiences.  Take advantage of every chance you get to learn and grow.  Remember that you are here to 1) help make your host family’s lives easier, and 2) learn about the US.   Don’t be surprised if families in the US raise their children differently than you are used to.  Find out how they want you to assist them in raising their children and then follow their lead.  Finally, although it will be an adjustment at first, if you give it your best you will have one of the greatest experiences of your life.

Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – I know I’m supposed to provide room and board for my au pair, but what’s included in the board portion?

Your au pair is supposed to live with you like a member of the family, so if you are treating your au pair like a brother or sister who is coming for an extended stay, then you are following the intent of the program.  Au pairs should have at least 3 healthy and balanced meals per day.  Some families tell their au pairs that they can eat whatever they want; others feel more comfortable having a certain shelf in the pantry or fridge with food that is reserved for special occasions; and others label food if it needs to be saved.  Almost all host families have a grocery list and the expectation that if something is low or gone, it needs to be added to the list.

It is also a good idea to talk with your au pair about his normal diet.  You are not required to provide special food for your au pair, but most families will ask their au pair if they would like to add certain foods to the shopping list.  Remember, au pairs’ bodies are often still developing, so their appetite might be bigger than you expect.  Also, many au pairs are not used to the variety of foods that are available in the US.  It is ok to discuss with your au pair the amount of food that should be consumed per day (i.e. please don’t eat more than 3 pieces of fresh fruit per day so it can last until I go shopping again.)

If you invite your au pair out to dinner with your family, you should plan on paying for your au pair.  It’s also OK not to invite your au pair out, but you should make sure that your au pair can make a meal for themselves at home.  Lastly, if you go on vacation and leave your au pair at home you need to stock up on groceries for your au pair before you leave.

 

*** Advice to au pairs:  Remember that even though you are to live with your host family like a member of the family, you are still a guest in their home.  Try to match your eating style to that of your host family’s.  If you like to eat food that the family doesn’t  feel free to purchase it yourself.  If you are still hungry after a typical meal, ask your family what foods they are OK you eating afterwards.  In my home my four growing boys know that they are welcome to as many vegetables they want after dinner.  Many families in the US consider treats like ice cream, cookies and such to be occasional food that shouldn’t be eaten every day.  If you don’t know what is acceptable, please ask.  You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it will be better for everyone in the long run if everyone is on the same page. Finally, remember that all personal items are your responsibility to purchase.

Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – Do all au pairs expect to have a car?

Not many families have a car that is just for the au pair’s use and no au pair should expect to have free reign of a car.  Even if an au pair does have their own car, the au pair should always ask before using it and let the family know when they will have the car back.  Host families need to feel comfortable with their au pair’s driving skills, so they might require that the au pair get a US driver’s license first.  Host families also can limit the distance their car is driven and how long their au pair has their car out.  Au pairs need to remember that access to a car is a privilege, not a right.

Many au pairs cannot drive, or do not want to drive in the US.  Our cars are much bigger than they are used to, the roads are faster and have more people on them, and their English might not be great.  While most au pairs who don’t drive use public transportation, get rides from friends, bike or walk; it’s still a good idea for host families to offer them rides, especially to school or on the weekends.  No au pair should be stuck at home all the time because he or she doesn’t have a way to get out.

Talk with potential au pairs about their driving experience and what expectations you have for driving.  Don’t expect your au pair to be comfortable with driving in the US right away and plan on helping them get used to driving in the US.