4 Tips For Grandparents of a Child on the Autism Spectrum
From the thrill of the pregnancy announcement to the first time you hold your child’s child, becoming a grandparent is traditionally an experience filled with expectation and happiness. Watching grandchildren grow can be one of life’s greatest joys, but based on recent statistics, an increasing number of grandparents are learning what it means to have a grandchild with autism.
The questions and uncertainty that accompany an autism diagnosis can be frightening, especially the child’s parents. As the entire family works to understand the new normal that comes with ASD, grandparents can be a steadying source of love and support.
From the initial diagnosis to the real-world details of day-to-day life with a child with ASD, the following reminders can help your entire family:
Be honest. Be open. But above all, be loving.
While processing an ASD diagnosis, your child and their parent(s) will be navigating new territory. Coming to terms with autism can be physically and emotionally tiring, and exhaustion impacts the way information is received. Words spoken with the best of intentions can still damage a relationship. Rather than questioning the diagnosis or expressing every concern, it’s best to offer input only when asked. If you’re not sure what to say, a reassuring expression of unconditional love and support is always helpful. And when you interact with your children and your grandchildren, understand that the way you choose to communicate with each person conveys as much love as the words you may say.
Let your kids be the parents.
After spending a lifetime protecting your children and meeting their needs, releasing that sense of control may be difficult. But as they learn to raise children of their own, one of the best things you can do is step back and allow them to be the parent. This can be especially difficult as they learn their child has autism and struggle to address all the expected and unexpected challenges associated with raising a child on the spectrum. Your natural tendency may be to step in and offer advice, but it’s essential to allow your child and their partner the room to establish their own views, rhythms, and routines as ASD parents.
With the ASD diagnosis rate on the rise, there’s an increasing likelihood that you may already know someone who has a child with autism. This fact combined with a growing number of movies and television shows depicting autistic characters makes it easy to form ideas and opinions regarding how a person with autism should behave. When it comes to comparing people on the spectrum, Dr. Stephen Shore says it best: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Trying to determine how your grandchild should act or respond based on preconceived notions is unfair to the child, their parents, and your own expectations. So rather than falling into the comparison trap, take time to discover the individual tendencies and personality traits that make your grandchild uniquely wonderful.
Commit to learning more about ASD.
As researchers continue to uncover more information about the autism spectrum, commonly held ideas will be challenged and new discoveries made. Staying up-to-date with the latest information can be a daunting task, but learning more about ASD can help grandparents be an invaluable source of love, support, and encouragement. If you’re interested in learning more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can find helpful information on these online resources:
A Grandparent’s Guide to Autism
Grandparents Can Make a Difference
National Institute of Mental Health
We understand that all family members of children with autism can benefit from ongoing education and support. Contact us to learn more about how our programs and therapies can help your entire family along with your grandchild.