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Compare and Despair in the Autism Game

In the post below, Jane Springer shares her perspective on life as a grandmother to twins, one of whom has autism.

I am in the relatively unique position of having twin grandchildren, one is on the autism spectrum and one is not.  With twins, you are going to compare their mannerisms, their growth, their milestones and their personalities.  From the time the were born, we did this with Harper and Granger.  One sat up sooner than the other.  One talked sooner than the other.  Harper was always a social butterfly, once she was comfortable in a situation.  Granger was always in his own world.  He could listen to music played over and over.  He would wander a room looking at books, and other toys in the room.  We never thought he was listening and we even did hearing tests on him, because sometime he would not respond. When they started day care and pre-school, it was hard for him to sit still in a classroom.  But what was amazing was that he could recite back whatever had been taught or a song that was learned while he was wandering.  By this time, the red flags were there for the autism spectrum and he was diagnosed before age two.  His ability to learn numbers, read and memorize  at avery early age was cool and interesting to us, but it caused Harper no end of aggravation.  She wanted to read so badly and so distressed that she couldn’t do what Granger could do.  We always explained to her that his brain worked different than hers and played up her positive qualities.  But it still bothered her.  

It wasn’t until they started kindergarten that Harper caught up with him on the reading and of course, she has shown that she is extremely bright and understands many concepts a lot better than her brother. I tell this story because parents and grandparents of children with autism often compare their children with typical children in school and in the family setting.  We also compare our kids with other kids on the spectrum to see what our children do better or not as well as other children on the spectrum.  This can cause us no end of concern, distress and anxiety that, I think, is really unnecessary.  Each of our children has his own strengths and gifts, on the spectrum or not.  Let’s give ourselves (and our kids) a break and just revel in the uniqueness of who they are.  Where they shine and where they need help.  I have learned with the twins that they are completely separate individuals, they are making their own journeys, and they are precious to us in their own way.  

No comparison is necessary.

We love them just the way they are.

Click here to read Jane's blog, Special Moments with an Autistic Grandchild.

Click here to download the Autism Speaks Grandparents Tool Kit designed to provide resources and support for grandparents of individuals with autism.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.