Thursday is the best day because that is the day Catalina Lopez — cheerful, well trained and all of 17 years old — comes to watch Spencer and Logan, each for an hour, separately, and peace descends on the family’s two-bedroom apartment in western Queens. Competent, reliable baby sitters are closely guarded treasures for most parents; for families who have children with special needs (but who do not qualify for state-supported respite care), such baby sitters may exist only in the realm of fantasy. Those who need a break the most, then, are often the least able to find someone they trust to provide it. Several such parents expressed that sentiment several years back to Joy Levitt, the executive director of the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. And so, since 2004, the center has been offering, occasionally, a six-week training class for young people interested in caring for children with autism or other developmental disorders. Catalina is one of 34 graduates of the class.
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