Does having a grandchild with autism scare you? Are you worried that you are going to something wrong? Or maybe you aren’t sure how to handle the meltdowns or worry you won’t have the patience to deal with the constant routines. Maybe you are concerned that because your grandchild has autism you won’t ever feel that bond or that your grandchild can’t love you. Don’t worry, many grandparents have faced the same concerns as you (as a matter of fact, many parents of children with autism have the same concerns). The following are tips to help you enjoy your time with your grandchild with autism.
Ask what you can do to help. You might feel left out because you don’t know what to do. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, talk to your son or daughter and find out what they need. You might be able to take your grandchild for a few hours on a weekend afternoon to give your son or daughter and their spouse some time alone. You might cook a meal and bring it by (ask about any dietary constrictions beforehand). Focus on what your son or daughter and their family needs rather than focusing on what you want to do.
Learn about autism. There is a lot of information available to help you understand autism. Look for reliable information, your son or daughter can probably help you. Remember, while there is much good information, there are also many myths and misconceptions about autism. For you to best understand your grandchild, it is important to make sure you learn the facts about autism.
Don’t be afraid to ask your son or daughter (and their spouse) questions. Be sure to ask without judgment. Their family is probably still learning about autism and what is best for their child. It is okay to ask about treatments or schooling, as long as you don’t include statements such as "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" or "I wouldn’t do it that way." Don’t compare other typically developing children to theirs. Focus instead on learning what ways you can provide for your grandchild’s needs.
Pick a special outing to spend time with your grandchild. Children with autism thrive on routine, consistency and predictability. Use your grandchild’s interests to guide you in creating a "special" time together. You might want to go to the park, the library or a local museum. Try to go on outings at the same time each week and follow the same routine. After a few times, your grandchild will probably start looking forward to the outings.
Support your son or daughter and their spouse in their efforts to learn about autism and give their child the best life possible. Be curious about what treatments or therapies they have chosen and take as active of a part as possible, Again, do so without judgment.
Accept your grandchild for exactly who he or she is. Don’t spend time dwelling on what you want him to be or what you want him to be able to do. Focus on where he is right now and celebrate all of his accomplishments.
Remember that children with autism can love. One of the myths surrounding autism is that children with autism are not capable of love, but this isn’t true. Children with autism can and do love the people in their lives.
Ask your son or daughter what is the best way to handle meltdowns. If you are taking your grandchild out on a regular basis, or babysitting in his own home, there is a chance you will have to deal with meltdowns. Don’t wait until one occurs and you don’t know what to do, instead, be proactive and learn what steps you can take should a meltdown occur.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.