Autism Awareness in April

To celebrate Autism Awareness this month, I would love to share some information about Autism as well as some excellent Go Au Pair candidates who are interested in placing with a family with special needs children. You may ask yourself, why read this article and what does this author know about Autism. I will tell you.

First, I have had a lifelong interest in the brain and its functioning, and earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the area of Special Education. My early plans to become a brain surgeon didn’t work out, but a teacher can affect the brain from the outside. Second, while I am not a parent of an Autistic child, my best friend is and I can personally attest to the daily and lifelong struggles this brings not only to the individual, but to the entire family. I am dedicated to bringing awareness to this troubling condition and the families who live with it. Finally, my position as a childcare expert in Rhode Island puts me in a unique place to speak with families and bring a voice to the voiceless.

That being said, what is Autism and how can an Au Pair help your family? Simply stated, Autism is a complex brain development problem. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but most obvious is an individual’s difficulty with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and a variety of different repetitive behaviors. No two children with Autism or on the Autism spectrum, as is has become known as, are the same. Each child is unique, but there are similarities, particularly in the fact that there are known risk factors. These include but are not limited to advanced maternal age, problems or illness during pregnancy or childbirth, particularly related to oxygen flow to the brain, and an underlying and yet far under-researched genetic disposition to this brain disorder.

While prenatal vitamins and careful monitoring of mom and baby’s health can limit risk, there is no one cause and no one cure identified yet. What we do know is that the earlier a child is identified and intervention can occur, the better outcome for the individual’s lifelong functioning. First, know the signs of Autism, which often occur before one year of age, including those all-important first back-and-forth interactions between child and parent.

Babies over a few months of age should be showing interest in the people in their world, as evidenced by big smiles, cooing sounds, imitating sounds, and just general visual interest in people and faces around them. Babies over a year should babble, point, reach and show interest in their caregiver or parent. When they don’t, this is a warning sign. Babies around a year and a half should start to have a few words and definitely by age 2, a child should have at least a small vocabulary of 1-2 word phrases without prompting. There are also some limited physical developmental signs that may be delayed in some kids, but the level of a baby’s interaction with people and faces stands out to me as a mom and may be more easily recognized.

Discuss any concerns with your pediatrician as soon as you notice them, since early intervention can increase the chances of more normal development. Many parents, especially very young or inexperienced parents may not notice these things or even consider them, but pediatricians can give support and advice. If you feel yours does not, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion or find a new provider. I do not mean this to say that young moms or parents might not recognize problems, just that, having been around babies and children my whole life (before becoming a parent) helped me personally to see when a child acted different from the norm.

Finally, while most Au Pairs are not medically trained or specializing in this area, they can be a first line of awareness along with the parent in providing the best and most intensive response to any up and coming issue with any baby, not just one with special needs. Au Pairs are trained and experienced young people who come to America to provide their Host Family flexible live-in childcare and a mutually beneficial cultural exchange experience. Here are a half dozen current Au Pair candidates who are ready and willing to match with your family and special child/ren right now.

Alejandra is a 25 year old college student from Colombia who speaks English (rated 3 of 5) and Spanish and is Infant Qualified, so she is able to care for all of your kids ages 12 weeks and up.

Register for free at

Edison is an experienced childcare provider from Ecuador – consider an excellent role model for your kids in this young man!

Edison Luis is a male Au Pair candidate from Ecuador, April’s Featured Country, who is a 25 year old college graduate, speaking English (rated 4 of 5) and Infant Qualified as well as a professional driver.

Daniel Ricardo is another male Au Pair candidate from Colombia, age 26, who speaks English (rated 3 of 5) and Spanish.

Elisa is a 22 year old Albanian Au Pair candidate who is Infant Qualified, speaks English (rated 4 of 5), Algerian, German and Italian.

Fabiola is a 24 year old Au Pair candidate from Paraguay who speaks English (rated 3 of 5) and Spanish; she is also Infant Qualified.

Danae Nicole is an 18 year old South African Au Pair candidate who speaks English (rated a perfect 5 out of 5) and Afrikaans and is also Infant Qualified.

Please contact me, Joan Lowell, at or 401.309.1925 to discuss the Au Pair Program in RI, CT and MA or any area of the US. Feel free to share this post with those it may help or educate!


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