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Dear New Autism Grandparent

By Christine Denise

Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments


The life you envisioned for your child, and your child’s child has just changed.

But those lives are not over.

Instead, you are about to see your child rise to a challenge in ways you never thought possible, and equally, your grandchild with autism will do so, as well.

Should your grandchildren have siblings, you can count them into the risers, too. 

Now, the question is, how will you rise to this challenge?

It won’t be easy for you or anyone else I just mentioned.


Let Your Child Take the Lead

You need to give yourself and your child a chance to grieve and experience the feeling of loss that will come with learning that the life you always envisioned won’t be there.

But you also need to find how you fit into the life that lies ahead.

For me, my mother, step-father and mother-in-law are the only remaining grandparents for my son with autism.

Here’s how they have all found their paths along this journey.


What to Do And What Not to Do

My mother has helped me research, but she knows only to do so if I ask.

Bombarding me with every article, every ad, every mention of something to do with autism or how others are coping with it just wasn’t helpful for me when unsolicited. I didn’t want it to be the front and center of every conversation I ever have with her all the time. It’s on my mind enough, and sometimes – a lot of times actually – I don’t want to read or hear anything more about it.

But when I’m in a bind, wondering if there might be a good summer camp out there or new sensory experiences for my son with autism, I know exactly who to put on it.

My mother-in-law is the only grandparent who lives near us. 

She has stepped in as the only family member willing to babysit our son. 

That is one of the greatest gifts of all. 

It gives us time to be with each other for a date sometimes. 

Or go to a sporting event with our neurotypical children without worrying about whether the experience will work for our son with autism.  

My step-dad’s role has been more of a support system to my mother and a mentor to my neurotypical children. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t interested in my son with autism, but rather, he’s very committed to helping keep my neurotypical children occupied so we can focus on our son with autism without feeling as though our other children aren’t getting enough attention.


Finding Your Path Will Take Time

Finding how they fit into this new equation didn’t happen overnight for my son’s grandparents.

There were some growing pains.

I had to be honest with my mother about inundating me with research.

I had to tell my mother-in-law that I’m not going to stay home and miss athletic activities or other moments with my neurotypical children because my son with autism might have a meltdown. She is of a generation that is still embarrassed and judgmental of parents whose children appear to be out-of-control in public.

I am not. 

And she’s learned that for me, staying home and hiding my son with autism from the world, isn’t the life that will work for us.

I also had to tell my step-dad not to feel like he has to try to awkwardly interact with his grandson with autism to be a good grandfather to him. 

Helping us be more present for his grandson with autism is interacting with him. 

And, our son with autism will interact with him on his own terms, and it’s okay if he doesn’t.


The Road Ahead Won’t Be Easy but it Will Be Worth it

I’d also tell you to be prepared for your heart to ache as you watch your child learn to cope with being the parent of a special needs child.

There will be tears, struggles and challenges.

But the triumphs, the wins and the accomplishments your grandchild with autism will achieve will have a deeper meaning than you ever could have imagined.

And so will watching your own child live a life they weren’t expecting.


Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.

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