When a child is diagnosed with a special need, it’s never an easy adjustment for the family. The parents simply want to do anything they can for their child with special needs, while also staying connected with their other children.
At these times, life can seem crazy and overwhelming. It can be trying when you don’t see any progress in your child’s development. In many cases, going anywhere as a family becomes more challenging, and sometimes the demands of caring for your child can strain other important relationships in your life.
When this happens, many parents feel that they could use a helping hand. And sometimes, the caring help of a stranger is exactly what a family needs.
These Parents Were Frustrated When Their Child’s Development Didn’t Progress
At just four months old, Brendan and Jules’ baby, Luca, had open-heart surgery. This is hard enough to witness as a parent, but life became even more challenging when they discovered Luca had a sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Though they expected some developmental delays after his heart surgery, they never anticipated an SPD that would eventually lead to a speech delay.
At the age of two, Luca was still unable to communicate. So, even before his diagnosis, their days were filled with “high pitched screaming and incessant crying.”
Before long, life was the entire family was frustrated and stressed. Going out in public became next to impossible and would end in “uncontrollable screaming and crying episodes.”
“Some days were easier than others,” Jules says. “The hard days were extremely testing of not only our strength as a family, but the strength of our marriage.”
They needed help.
Brendan and Jules hired a babysitter who watched Luca in their home. Speech therapy became part of his daily routine, but after months of effort, there was still no visible change in Luca’s speech or behavior.
The normal things parents want to do with their kids had become next to impossible. Worse, the daily struggle was starting to impact the other children, which wasn’t what Brendan and Jules wanted for their kids.
They decided to find a childcare provider who would be more of a family member than a sitter. Luca needed more consistency and better reliability than a sitter could provide.
When they learned about the Au Pair program, Brendan and Jules knew it was the answer to their prayers.
All Luca Really Needed Was a Calm, Consistent Presence When His Parents Were Away at Work
Diana is an Au Pair from Ecuador with a unique background in special needs care. The family was drawn to her because of her experience, but they had very little hope that Luca’s progress would change.
“I noticed that Diana had experience working with children with developmental delays,” Jules says. “So immediately I knew that we needed to connect and get to know her.”
Brendan & Jules never could’ve guessed how Diana’s confidence and her calm, patient demeanor would soon impact their family.
The change didn’t take long. “Luca presented his usual challenges,” Jules says, “but within a week Diana was able to form an incredible, safe, and loving bond with him and our three other children.”
But it was Diana’s belief in Luca that had the biggest impact.
“A few months into her stay in 2019, we saw the most amazing changes in Luca,” Jules remembers. “He seemed happier. He started to eat more new foods.”
She attributes this to the fact that Diana was “never afraid to try and take him out to the park or on playdates.”
Nor was she daunted by Luca’s developmental delays. She spent time playing and coloring with him. Soon, she taught him to recognize letters and numbers, even though he couldn’t yet speak.
“He could tell you where the letters were in the alphabet if you asked,” Jules says. “Or where the ‘green block’ was in his Lego bin.”
This progress was leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’d seen Luca do in the past.
But this was only the beginning of Diana’s incredible impact.
A Few Months Later, Luca Started Talking for the First Time! The Family Was Totally Blown Away.
It didn’t take long for Diana’s dedication to pay off.
“We were totally blown away,” Jules says. “Luca started TALKING.”
When Luca began speaking under Diana’s care, Brendan and Jules couldn’t believe what they were hearing. After all, their former babysitter had dedicated her time to Luca’s speech therapy. They’d spent hours working with him and had seen no progress whatsoever.
Not only did Luca started talking for the first time, but he also became more trusting of people and more comfortable going out in public.
But in the end, Diana’s special needs experience was only half the work. When you show a child you’re confident in them, it has a huge impact.
Brendan and Jules had renewed faith that everything would be okay.
Suddenly, it didn’t seem so impossible to go out together as a family. They started to venture out to places they’d avoided in the past.
When before, going out in public had even become a strain on their marriage, Jules says, “This, in turn, helped our family bond grown and become so much stronger.”
But How Did Diana Do It?
Diana agrees that her special needs experience was just one factor in Luca’s growth.
“For me,” she says, “this is normal, because I’m a preschool teacher. It’s kind of easy because I’m working with kids, I know what to do.”
But Diana also has a natural intuition about children. Right from the beginning, she sensed that Luca needed to trust her before she could work with him.
“When I won his trust, everything was fine.”
This was just the first of many obstacles. Yet, Diana doesn’t see her actions as anything radical.
“I think that I personally changed his routine to be more active, to try to play more, and give him all my attention,” she recalls. “Be patient, don’t try to force him to do anything. Act like he can do it.”
Because Diana is an Au Pair, she was also able to bond with him in ways a local nanny might not have. “In the beginning,” she says, “I was talking with him and I was like, I don’t know your language. I don’t know English [very well]. I’m learning. So if you are learning how to talk, I am learning how to talk, too. We are the same. So you can trust in me. You can do it.”
This unique relationship, combined with the fact that Diana lived in the same home as the family, helped her build the bond that would help Luca progress.
Diana says she knew it would take time, but she never doubted he could do it.
“I wasn’t afraid even, to take him to another place. I took him all summer to the park.”
Despite Luca’s behavioral challenges, Diana didn’t shy away from helping him learn to share with other kids. “He was trying to play with another kid, and for me it was like, well that’s fine. Because it’s what a kid needs to do, make friends.”
Before long, he was steadfast friends with another boy he met at the park. Diana befriended the boy’s nanny and arranged playdates. In her eyes, there was no reason Luca shouldn’t do the same things as other kids.
“A kid needs to be with kids. If he is with kids, he’ll learn whatever he wants.”
And when it came to Luca’s learning, no one had more confidence and patience than Diana. Early into her placement with the family, she noticed that he could recognize letters and colors.
“He used to watch videos, and he pointed at the letters,” she says. “He pointed out to me the letters on the fridge, and I was like, ‘Ok, now can we do the ABCs?’”
After hearing that Luca’s speech therapy wasn’t working, Diana attended Luca’s therapy session with her Host Parents. To the parents’ surprise, she wasn’t impressed.
“I personally didn’t think it was good therapy. I saw that it was so simple; like they said, they didn’t see any change in Luca, and I didn’t see anything either.”
The family thought about finding a new therapy school. But because they’d just made a big life change by inviting Diana to move in, they decided to wait a while.
Even though the impact of her care was huge, Diana doesn’t think she did anything special.
“I don’t think it’s a specific activity,” she says of her work with Luca. “Because I know he won’t learn anything if he was just in the house, sharing with his siblings. So for me, it was like, just come outside. I just took him everywhere.”
But even though Diana views the situation with humility, she has done an incredible thing for her Host Family.
Because she’s an Au Pair, she was afforded a rare opportunity to bond with Luca as a family member, not a babysitter. Plus, Au Pairs are uniquely able to devote their attention to their Host Kids.
After all, they don’t have any other major commitments in the local area. They can’t work a second job, they don’t have family obligations nearby. They will make friends in the area, but in all likelihood, most of their friends are Au Pairs with schedules.
Without thinking about it, Diana took advantage of this dynamic and focused all of her attention on Luca when he needed it most. This, combined with his parents’ love and care, created the ideal environment in which to grow.
Diana Gave Them the “Ultimate Gift” and “Some of The Most Incredible Memories”
Now, their days were no longer filled with incessant screaming and crying. They were able to enjoy time together instead of feeling the constant burden of parenting guilt and frustration. Finally, Brendan and Jules were able to focus on what they wanted most: to focus on filling their children with love and building memories as a family.
According to Jules, they couldn’t have done it without Diana.
“I think when you sign up to be a Host Parent, you have the expectations of exceptional childcare, a helping hand, and someone to bring culture… into your home. But what you really get is a lifelong family member.”
Diana, too, came into the program expecting a cultural exchange experience. Here, she wasn’t disappointed.
“For me, everything was new,” she says. “I was learning a lot about American culture. If I saw something and was curious, they explained it to me.”
As an exchange visitor, Diana has a unique perspective on life in the U.S.
“I saw that here, people are more polite. People here are honest.”
In our current political climate, her insights aren’t what you might expect to hear about U.S. culture. It’s refreshing to know that not only does she view Americans this way, but she has also learned what it means to chase the American dream.
“In the USA, you are your own & nobody can say anything. It’s your body. It’s your way to be… The American Dream is not easy, but you make your American Dream true.”
– Diana, Ecuador
In addition to sharing their native traditions and cultures, Diana says she has grown close to the entire family.
“They are so important to me, like I have a family in another country, because they take care of me,” she says. “I really appreciate that they consider me a part of this family… I love them so much. I think they will always be in my heart.”
Because of this special relationship, the family’s bond has grown tenfold, including their bond with Diana.
“We have experienced multiple childcare services. You can’t put a price on what we’ve gotten out of this program. Diana has given us so much, we will never be able to thank her enough.”
– Jules, Host Mom
Not all Au Pairs have a background in special needs care, but Go Au Pair’s search feature allows parents to filter by priority childcare needs. Still, some families question whether inviting an Au Pair to live in their home is worth it.
But Jules says she wouldn’t change their arrangement for the world.
“The process of finding an Au Pair can be scary sometimes, but in life, there are few rewards that come without risk.”
Our families agree… Au Pair child care is the best! Register for free today and start browsing Au Pair profiles.
“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”