There is nothing in this world that can be compared to the unconditional and boundless love that a grandparent feels for their grandchild. Being a grandparent of a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is quite similar to being a grandparent of any other child. Generally, with more time in hand, grandparents can play a very important role in the growth and development of the child. Parents have to manage and coordinate a lot of responsibilities. In these situations, grandparents can be a huge support and share responsibility with more extended roles in the lives of the grandchildren.
Autism Spectrum Disorder can bring about certain characteristic features in the child that a lot of grandparents may not be aware of. They want to connect but very often they may not know what to say, what to do or how to reach out. There are few simple ways in which grandparents can add and enhance their grandchildren's lives.
1. Acceptance: Being a grandparent comes with its own hopes and expectation. The diagnosis of ASD can leave them sad and very worried. Worry for their own children and simultaneously for the grandchildren. The very first step toward providing support is to accept and embrace the new situation. Read and research as much as possible about ASD. Information regarding ASD can make the grandparents understand how their grandchild communicates, and its social and behavioral manifestations.
2. Offer support and listen: However old a child gets, parents remain a sounding board and a place where they can always turn for support. Taking care of a child diagnosed with ASD can be sometimes very challenging which can make parents feel disappointed and downhearted. They may not be able to speak openly and freely to other people for the fear of being judged. Most parents just want to feel reassured that they are not alone and are doing their best for their children. You can provide a listening ear, a platform where the parents can feel understood and relaxed. It is not necessary to come up with a solution every time. Just being there and providing support is good enough.
3. Give parents time off: Fulfilling various responsibilities of home, work, towards other family members while caring for a child diagnosed with ASD can be quite exhausting. Now and then parents can feel completely stressed out. Grandparents are the next best option to take care when it comes to children. Grandparents can help out by taking up some of the responsibilities like taking the grandchild for the required therapy session and giving that time to the parents to relax and destress. The emotional and mental health of the primary caregiver – the parents, is also as important as that of the child.
4. Spend time with the other sibling: When a child is diagnosed with ASD, automatically he/she becomes the focus and priority of the family. Often the daily routines become centered around the needs and requirements of the child. In these situations, the brother/sister of the child diagnosed with ASD often feels left out and uncared for. Grandparents can make sure that they spend quality and quantity time with the sibling as he/she is also a child who needs love and care. This may help the brother/sister to understand and develop a positive attitude towards their sibling diagnosed with ASD.
5. Savor the moments and make memories: A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder does not change the fact that there is a special bond with the grandchildren. A child diagnosed with ASD may respond to love and affection in a different manner. Figure out ways to have fun activities with your grandchildren and connect with them. This would help make the relationship much stronger and support them in their development.
Written By: -
Isha Singh - Clinical Psychologist
Director - Clinical Services, Ananya Child Development Centre.