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A Nana's Love for Her Grandchildren with Autism

This is a post by Aleta Tackitt, a grandmother to Trenton and Andrew Conrad who both have autism. She is a dedicated advocate for autism and takes pride as her role as their, Nana. The post was originally shared on her daughter Angela's blog Two Brothers One Journey.

Anyone that knows me knows how much I have always looked forward to being a grandma!  All my kids said they actually felt sorry for the first one of them that made me one.  I was the one that was always grabbing the babies at church, work, wherever I was when I spotted a baby I was there! I went to garage sales and had a room full of clothes, toys, and all the "necessities" it takes these days to care for an infant before one was even a glimmer in their parent's eyes!

Needless to say, when my daughter announced she was pregnant I was on Cloud 9!!  I prayed that my first grandchild would be healthy, of course, but NEVER once, did I even think about autism! I was thinking along the lines of a heart defect, cancer, etc...physical things.  I don't remember even thinking about having a disabled grandchild.  Was it because I thought I was immune from something like that happening to my family?  I would like to think not, I just didn't think about it at all!!!  That is to my shame.

The day Trenton made his appearance in the world, I was just about as happy as anyone could be on this earth! My heart was full! A lot has transpired for my family since that time, which I won't get into, because if you are reading this, of course, you already know how things turned out.. you already know the "rest of the story". 

I still remember the day Trenton received his diagnosis.  I was keeping Andrew so I didn't get to go with her and Tim for support. I got the "news" via a phone call. Her words still haunt me...."Mom, Trenton received the diagnosis of autism today." Her words were few, her voice was flat, and I can still hear those words in my brain!!!   I dropped to my knees and sobbed.I didn't stop crying for at least a month..every single day..the tears came..sometimes while I was simply folding the middle of the night....while cooking.......while rocking Trenton, Andrew, or Lincoln to sleep during the day. 

I began to avoid going to Wal-Mart or the grocery store because I was afraid of running into someone that would ask me about Trenton. This happened one day and I stood in the middle of Wal-Mart talking to a friend and I started talking and crying so much I had to leave.  But, probably the one place that really affected me the most was when I went to church. Yes, church!  Of all places, why did going to church services bring me to tears.  Our poor preacher probably stared to think I hated going to church so much I cried!!!! 

I often think over the blessings I have enjoyed in my life.  Things I didn't really even think about being "blessings" at the time. Thus, I probably didn't thank God enough for them if I didn't recognize them as blessings at the time.  I would like to think I was thankful for things like health, healthy children, a warm home, enough food to eat,... you get the picture.... the "things" we often breathe out our thankfulness for to God.  Autism has taught me that there are many, many more things we should thank God for that I, admittedly, didn't even think about until autism knocked on our door! 

Simple things like......taking my kids for an "outing". I remember one time when my kids were small picking them up from school with bags packed in the car and we headed to Indianapolis for the weekend to the Children's Museum. We had kept it a secret and they were so surprised and happy!!!  Did I even consider this a blessing?  Probably not!  This is impossible for my daughter and her family. Trenton could not tolerate being in a museum. Let's just say it would be a nightmare to attempt this. 

Simple things like......going to McDonalds!  How many consider this a blessing?  I know I didn't because I was always trying to get my kids to eat somewhere else..some place perhaps a little more  healthy!!!

Simple things like.....a T-ball game, Little League, basketball....all the extra-curricular activities neurotypical,  healthy kids get to enjoy.

Simple things like...just a simple "hug" from your grandchild. .. any gesture of love from them. If you never know what it is like to be hit by your grandchild and pushed away when you try to show them affection and love, then you are fortunate!

Simple things like....going to church!  Yes, that's right.....going to church!  Yes, perhaps we all get an "A" for considering this a blessing. But, my daughter sometimes can't even go to church. Sometimes it may be because she has been up all night with Trenton, or he is having an exceptionally bad day with his sensories and he can't tolerate the people, noise, etc. Thus, she has to scoop him up screaming and leave early.

I have never considered myself to be a jealous person.  I have always felt we should be content with what we have...bloom where we are get my drift.  I have to admit that I AM A JEALOUS person anymore.  I want what I see others having....Normal grandchildren they can enjoy being with. I envy their trips, vacations, and  yes, even taking them to McDonalds!!!! I see children Trenton's age everywhere and they are playing T-ball, registering for Kindergarten, talking to their "Nana" .........

I don't know what the future holds for Trenton, or any of my grandchildren for that matter. No one does but God! If you have healthy, normal grandchildren, please hold them tight, thank God for them, and keep our family in your prayers!  I don't see Trenton with my eyes..I see him with my heart and my love for him is as much as anyone could have for theirs.

Download the Autism Speaks Grandparents Guide to Autism here.


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.