Friday, April 16, 2010

Grandparents Can Help Recognize Autism in Children - On Parenting (

Torley Speaks at Bounce for AutismImage by Ravenelle via Flickr
"A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend. "

Grandparents are often the first to realize that a young grandchild has autism, but they often hesitate to say something to the child's parents, which can delay the best available treatment for autism: early intervention. "
Grandparents Can Help Recognize Autism in Children - On Parenting (

One thing is that grandparents, by definition, have raised children and so, they have a large "knowledge base" to draw on.  They've seen their children, their friends' children, and networked with other mom's on how their children are growing.  They've shared stories about how well or poorly their children are doing in class, sports, and extracurricular and social activities.  So, often times, they know how a particular child is developing compared to the average.  So, I can well believe that they know when something is up even if they can't provide an exact diagnosis.

The article goes on to say that family dynamics can play a part in grandparents not telling their children that their grandchildren need help.  I suppose it comes down to your relationship with your children and how well they can take advice on the grandchildren.  For some families, it could be seen as interfering.  And perhaps, it does take some finesse to maneuver through family relations.  I think the words of the old Psalm, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight" sum it up.

There are Grandparents that are aware and want to help, and then, again, there are those that don't.    I am thinking of my own family.

The way my Mom carried on about my nephew, Max,  you would have thought it was the Second Coming of the Baby, Jesus.  Honestly.  I was expecting a Heavenly Host to burst into "Glory to Max in the Highest"!   Max was SOOO CUUUUTE!!!!!  The way he smiled, the games he played.  Every stage of Max's development was roundly heralded to the world.  It was Max this, and Max that, and Max the other thing. MAX! MAX! MAX!  We heard the Maximum about Max.  I don't think Gabriel blowing his horn could have made more of a racket!

Max was Mom's buddy and partner in crime. "When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window."   Mom got him to carry on and misbehave with her in church, breaking all the rules that she had worked so hard to install in her daughter,  his mother.  Really, you Grandparents, are something else with your pet grandchild!  Mom was going to write a letter to Max only to be opened after she died so that she could say all the things she wanted to say to him that required a more mature understanding. 

Then one day, there was a big silence about her visit to her nephew.  Mom talked about how the family was doing in general and then, she broke the news that Max was autistic.  Maybe Max might be able to go to college.  Maybe not.  She didn't say too much more about it.   From that point on, we heard the Minimum about Max.   As far as I know, that letter never got written.  Mom closed the door on Max.

The sad thing is that looking backwards, I think that my Mom, was handicapped, too,  if not with a form of autism, then, with some sort of sensory integration problem.  She definitely had problems with hearing (possibly Central Auditory Processing Disorder) and clumsiness (maybe visual-motor skill integration).  I never realized this until I found out I had some sort of a problem, too.  You know, these problems are often genetic and some of the providers for autism and learning disability therapy are starting to see parents and grandparents come in to get a diagnosis.   Adult autism is on the rise partly because of children aging out and parents/grandparents realizing that they, too, have many of the same problems.

I think for some folks the "Rules" are just too important.   And, I guess, one of the rules, is that any deviation from normal behavior for whatever reason, is a big No-No.   If a member of the family can't abide by society's rules because of a defect, then it is a great shame, only to be spoken of in a low tone behind closed doors.  I think Mom might have found it very hard to accept herself and would have been mortified to learn that she, herself, had a disability.  She probably would have denied it.

I think Grandparents can play an important part in raising an autisic child.  The beauty of getting old is that you know the classics, that you know the guiding principles of what has been true and what will probably always be true.  The hard part of getting old is being trapped in outmoded regulations and locking the windows that  separates you from your family.  And, yet, I do believe that there are a number of folks trapped and if you knocked, their hearts would open the door.

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