Getting a good babysitter is a challenge for any parent. But what if your child has special needs?
Sherril Smoger-Kessous received her education in speech pathology at Syracuse and Wichita State universities. She spent her career working with multiply-handicapped and differently abled children in Rhode Island and Israel before finding her way to the United Cerebral Palsy center and school in East Orange and then in the Integrated Preschool Program in the Millburn School District. After retiring, she struck out on her own as a part-time freelance educator for school districts in Passaic County; she still does this today.
Her work through the years has been with infants, toddlers and elementary school-aged children who have a range of developmental delays and disabilities including autism, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, hearing and visual impairments, cognitive delays, cleft palate, attention deficit and speech and language disorders including apraxia, phonological disorders, dysfluency, articulation and language delays.
And now, she is using her extensive background for a new endeavor.
"While working with families who have children with special needs, I saw that it was not always easy for them to pursue many of the activities that would take them out of the house," Smoger-Kessous said. "It was not easy for these families to find people they could trust to stay with their child, who would understand their child's special needs and be able to appropriately deal with them."
Knowing this, she was inspired to start a babysitting service geared toward these families. And now, Parsippany boasts a new and unique kind of child care: Special Services for Special Kids.
We caught up with new business owner Smoger-Kessous for this installment of Spotlight On Parsippany.
By the way, we're always looking for new suggestions for businesses, organizations or people in Parsippany for this weekly spotlight. Please send your ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What led you to start a babysitting service for special needs kids?
Having worked in Early Intervention for 25+ years (Early Intervention is a state funded program which provides evaluations and services for infants and toddlers, birth to 3 years who have disabilities and/or developmental delays and their families), I knew that the families of many of these children had a hard time finding care for their children when they were out of the house. They did not trust just anyone to stay with their child and it was hard finding people who understood their child and could deal effectively with him or her. With my background, I figured I was uniquely qualified to meet this need.
2. What are the differences between "regular" babysitting and what you provide?
“Regular” babysitting is often done by younger people, teens and perhaps older people who are looking to make a little money and enjoy being with children. I meet those definitions, but what makes my services unique is that having been an speech/language pathologist, I can “work” with the child in a manner in which he/she is having fun playing, while at the same time reinforcing old skills and teaching new ones. I can also provide the parent feelings of confidence, security and peace of mind, knowing that they are leaving their child with someone who has years of experience working with young children with a variety of disabilities and who genuinely loves and respects children. Also, the parent can avail themselves with a world of knowledge about child development, disability, programs, and even such things as organizing a play space to meet their child’s needs. Hopefully, it’s a win-win situation for them and their child.
3. How many kids do you take care of, and how is it going?
I am still in the beginning phases of this endeavor. I am networking to try and get the word out that I am here and can provide this service. The children that I worked with in Early Intervention, are mostly too old for my service at this time. So, I’m reaching out.
4. What reaction are you getting from parents of special needs children regarding Special Services for Special Kids?
I have spoken with a few parents and many other professionals who tell me that this is a much-needed service and they are glad to see me providing it. I need to get the word out and I am trying to do just that.
5. And, why Parsippany?
My husband and I moved to Parsippany in July, 1983, so we’ve been residents here for almost 30 years. My daughter Rachel was just turning 3 and it wouldn’t be too many years before I became pregnant with my son, Jeremy. My kids got their education going through the Parsippany school system and consequently, they both attended good, competitive colleges (Brandeis and University of Rhode Island, respectively). One of the things my family really liked about living in Parsippany is the diversity of its population and that it is something between a small city and a large suburb. So, why Parsippany? Because it’s where we call home!