The answer is very important for everyone, parents, siblings and most importantly your child with additional needs. Do you know I was such a protective parent I didn’t let David go into respite until his teens!! I don’t think this was the right thing to do for David.
Why? First of all most children go for sleep-overs however, in my experience not a lot of children with additional needs are asked. Anytime David has gone for respite he has always given out on the way in and loved it when he been there because he has a ball.
When he goes into respite the carers do whatever he wants. He is completely spoilt and safe. He normally likes to go out for dinner, he does that. When he is staying in he is given a menu and if there is nothing on it he likes, he can ask for something else. If he wants to watch a match or go to the pub then they will always try to accommodate him. If he wants to go shopping, you’ve guessed it, he does that. As I say completely spoilt by absolutely fantastic caring people.
What makes this work as well as it does, communication. I was asked a long list of questions regarding David’s health, hobbies, dislikes and likes. I went to view the respite house without David first and met the team and then with David to see how he felt about the house. David showed the key person assigned to him how he walks with a walker, how he manoeuvres his wheelchair, how he gets into bed, showers and eats. The end results in a very happy David, and a family knowing he is enjoying himself.
What about his siblings? His brother & sister are also keen to know David is happy and enjoying himself when he is away. It is only lately that I realise that respite is for all the family. Because of David’s intellectual disability, he tends to talk a lot to himself!! And because of his hearing loss, he can be loud. His personality is unique (like us all) however you hear him and he demands attention 24/7. So it’s great for his siblings to have a little peace and quiet especially when exam times are here or to be honest just a break. I know they love David so very much however they appreciate the quiet time also.
As for me? Well, I know David is safe and happy. I can contact the service anytime I like, I can also contact David when he is out and about. I am secure in knowing that he is in a suitable place as I have checked it out. And I have met the staff who have always been friendly and helpful. I also take a well-earned rest, chill out with the rest of the family, cut down on housework and go out for a meal with my other children and go for a long beach or forest walk. I breathe and relax and then I am ready to see his fabulous smile again.