Synapse Sitters Helps Parents of Kids With Disabilities Find Reliable Babysitters
When Marie Maher couldn’t find a reliable babysitter to care for her son, who is on the autism spectrum, she took action to help her family and other parents of kids with disabilities find quality assistance. This effort became SynapseSitters.com, an online community launched in May 2017, that connects parents of children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities with qualified caregivers.
After learning her son was on the autism spectrum, Marie quickly realized her needs when looking for a babysitter had drastically changed. “I hated interviewing sitters and telling them that my son was on the spectrum.” she told The Mighty, “I would see them physically change. Some would say they would love to come and babysit but would never return my texts. Others would come and babysit but would call me if they felt my son was throwing a ‘tantrum’ or ‘fit’ and they didn’t know what to do.”
Maher started as the founder of LullabySitters.com, an online network for parents and caregivers in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lullaby Sitters served the Indianapolis community for two years, connecting parents with babysitters through online and in-person “Speed Sitting” events.
When babysitters failed to return her texts about booking another night out due to her son’s needs, she realized she could no longer use the network she created and spent several years growing. That’s when Maher launched Synapse Sitters — a rebrand of Lullaby Sitters — to help parents in the disability community.
Maher established guidelines and qualifications for people to become approved sitters on her site. Potential babysitters are required to have some type of education, training or employment background within human service fields such as teaching, speech pathology, ABA therapy or nursing. “Once we get that verified, sitters are approved and can then have access to our parent members,” she told The Mighty.
Sitters provide their employment or education information for verification during the sign-up process. Synapse Sitters also offers expanded background checks for its sitters. Sitters with complete background checks receive preferred ranking and listing.
For a monthly fee of $29.95, parents can create a profile to access the site’s network of pre-qualified sitters. SynapseSitters is not a placement agency. They do not employ or endorse their sitter members. They simply provide the platform and the opportunity for sitters and parents to connect. Both parties mutually decide to work together, set their schedules and rates. Sitters are paid directly by parents, so sitters keep 100 percent of their earnings. They do not work with insurance companies or Medicaid waivers.
“Typically parents stop looking for sitters when their children are 11 to 13 years old, but we understand that your child’s diagnosis never goes away,” Maher said. “We allow parents of teenagers and young adults up to age 20 to join. They may not need a ‘babysitter’ but perhaps a companion or friend to spend time with and/or show them life skills.”
Currently, SynapseSitters only covers Indianapolis, Indiana, but it has been beta testing and tweaking its site for several months with the plan of expanding nationwide. Once the site gains more feedback from parents and sitters, Synapse Sitters plans to build a mobile app.
“We can actually expand to new cities at any time.” Maher told The Mighty, “We are looking at finding several ‘community ambassadors’ to help get the word out in their area so we may begin recruiting sitters.”
Those interested in services in their area can email Synapse Sitters at [email protected] For Autism Awareness Month this April, new users can get a free month of membership by using the discount code “April.”