Having a grandchild on the autism spectrum

Helen: Interview 03

Age at interview: 57

Brief outline: Helen's grandson, now seven, was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old.

Background: Helen lives with her husband. She has two daughters and four grandchildren. She works as a counsellor. Ethnicity/nationality: White British.

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Helen has always been very involved with her grandchildren. She actually witnessed the birth of her grandson with autism and describes this as “one of the most profound moments” her life. 
Her grandson was diagnosed with autism after she and his parents noticed that he had difficulties acquiring language and tended not to respond when his name was called. Helen describes how getting the diagnosis was “the most appalling experience” because during the meeting numerous health professionals focused on the things that her grandson could not do.
Helen loves spending time with all her grandchildren. She does different activities with each of them individually. She takes her grandson with autism swimming and bakes cakes or goes to the cinema or museums with the others. 
Helen explains that grandparents “hurt twice” as they want to spare the pain of both their child and their grandchild. She sees her role as supporting her daughter, babysitting for and playing with her grandchildren, and using her skills as a researcher to help her daughter and son-in-law gather information in preparation for the “fights” they have had to secure services for her grandchild.


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