Having a grandchild on the autism spectrum

Jan: Interview 05

Age at interview: 64

Brief outline: Jan's twin grandsons were diagnosed with autism when they were one and a half.

Background: Jan has one daughter. She also has three grandchildren; one granddaughter and twin grandsons aged ten and eight respectively. She has retired from her job in social services management. Ethnicity/nationality: White British

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Jan has three grandchildren; an older granddaughter and twin grandsons with autism. When the twins were one and a half, Jan and the parents began to suspect they may have autism. This was later confirmed with a diagnosis. 
Although, the family were not surprised by the diagnosis, and managed to accept it, Jan feels it was important to also recognise the pain and loss that she felt, and gives the examples that she will never watch them play rugby or see them go to university like other grandparents may. There are also lots of positives that Jan has experienced. She has been surprised at how kind and understanding people have been towards them. She feels that, because of their experience, they have moved into a “kinder bit of the world”. Jan feels her granddaughter deals with the situation very well and has developed the skills and attitude which enable her to help her brothers. 
Jan stopped work around the time of the diagnosis and although she was ready for retirement, she describes their diagnosis as a ‘pull factor’. Her grandsons are homeschooled as this allows for more individual attention to be provided for them. She has a keen interest in crafts and textiles which has translated into a useful resource during homeschooling. Jan also helps with taking the children out on trips and with general childcare and will do things like take her granddaughter to Brownies as this eases the overall childcare for the parents. Currently Jan is entirely committed to family care responsibilities, which she does not mind at all and is very happy to provide help. However, she does foresee a future where she physically will not be able to provide care as she grows older and her grandsons bigger. 
As well as providing childcare, Jan also provides support by listening to and advising her daughter. She feels that if her grandsons were not autistic then she wouldn’t be as close to her daughter or as involved in their lives as she is. Although she does not wish to glamorise it, Jan feels it is nice to be a ‘much needed granny’.


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