How Grandparents Can Support Their Children

A Grandparent's Guide to Autism

August 27, 2018

A major concern for grandparents is the wellbeing of their adult children who are parenting a child with autism. Because a child’s autism diagnosis can lead to emotional, financial and marital stress, grandparents frequently play a significant role in helping their families.

Here are some ideas on how you can help:

  • Ask if you can babysit your grandchild for a few hours, or overnight, so that your child can get a break or enjoy some alone time with his or her spouse.
  • If you live at a distance or are not comfortable babysitting your grandchild, you may want to offer to pay for respite services if possible.
  • Educate yourself and your extended family about autism. Attend seminars, read books, call or email your family to get frequent updates on your grandchild’s progress.
  • Become active in your grandchild's treatment and development. If you live nearby, offer to accompany your grandchild to his or her therapy appointments to observe these sessions and learn effective techniques for interacting with your grandchild.
  • Remember that grandparents are in a unique position to help fight social stigmas associated with autism. Disclosing that you have a family member with autism can encourage others to ask questions so they become better informed and aware of the disorder. 
  • If you are interested in public advocacy, meet with, talk to and write to legislators, government officials, public school teachers and administrators, insurance company managers and other professionals involved in education, housing, and public transportation. Everyone listens to a grandparent, so take advantage of this!

Some ways you can emotionally support your adult children:

  • Keep the door open to genuine communication by sharing your own sadness, fears, and joy. Be open and honest about how you feel about interacting with your grandchild. Relating to a child with autism can be draining and stressful. It's okay to admit that at times you feel frustrated or frazzled.
  • Be open to hearing about their emotions and be honest in sharing your concerns. Try to avoid judgments unless you feel strongly that your grandchild might be endangered by some choice his parents have made. Being patient at a time like this is very difficult, but you will get better results in the long run if you don’t force your point of view on them.
  • Respect the decisions they make for their child with autism. They will appreciate your support. Ask for clarification or more information if you have specific questions.
  • Share a sense of hope with your family. There is promising research underway, with many possibilities or the future.
  • Notes of encouragement or just simply listening can be really helpful to your child.

Read more from A Grandparent’s Guide to Autism.

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