September is National Grandparents Month, and Autism Speaks is Celebrating Grandparents! Below is a blog post by Kay Richardson, the grandmother of a young boy with autism.
I would like to tell my story. My grandson, Hunter, is 9 years old and was diagnosed at 2-1/2 with mild-to-moderate autism. He is the joy of my life.
Even though the initial diagnosis was shocking and somewhat heartbreaking, if I had known then what I know now, it would have made such a difference. This is what I would like other grandparents of newly-diagnosed kids to know. It does get better, especially if your family takes advantage of all the great information and resources available.
I have been so fortunate to be involved with Hunter’s life from the beginning. He has always loved to spend the night at Granny’s house because he gets one-on-one attention. I have the luxury of time to spend with him and we do all kinds of fun and different things his parents don’t have time to do with him.
Early on, when he was 5 or 6, I would take him along to the botanical gardens I volunteered for and he helped me weed, or he played in the dirt, watched bugs and birds. I got him a local, regional bird identification book eventually and he actually memorized it! He has grown to be very respectful and protective of nature and creatures.
Examples of other things we do (besides just hanging out at home):
- We went for a ride on a rural excursion train. (He has been in love with trains since he was a toddler and has about 150 Thomas train cars!)
- Our city sponsored a “Get Out and Play Day” where he experienced rock wall climbing, archery and fishing!
- We go to the library every other Wednesday evening. He now has his own card. His favorite books are non-fiction ones about trains, weather (hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters), animals and reptiles.
- We go on bike rides, and bird watching hikes.
- In a couple weeks I am taking him to a Heritage Festival where he can see old farming equipment at work, shuck corn and watch a pie-eating contest (I can’t wait for his reaction to that).
The possibilities are really endless. You just need to plan and anticipate any circumstances which might upset or confuse, but that becomes second nature as time goes by.
I feel very blessed to have been given the gift of grandmothering Hunter. His perspective is unique and pure and this is the important thing I think grandparents of newly-diagnosed kids need to know. As grandparents, we have the patience we didn’t have the first time around. Mercifully, we get a second chance! Our reward? A relationship like no other. Take it from Hunter who, when asked by a teacher or principal who I am, says, “Oh, that’s my friend Granny!”
I do blog on occasion about our escapades and my thoughts about grandmothering Hunter. Check it out here!
Click here to view A Grandparent’s Guide: Autism Speaks Family Support Tool Kit.