Having a grandchild on the autism spectrum

Relationship with grandchildren

All the grandparents we talked with had close relationships with their grandchildren. Many were very hands on, living close to their grandchildren and seeing them regularly. One grandson lived with his grandmother. Others lived further away and saw their grandchildren less frequently. These grandparents also described close and loving relationships with their grandchildren though they were less involved in everyday aspects of their upbringing.
“They are a delight, an absolute delight” 
The grandchildren ranged in age from 6 up to 21, and all the grandparents we talked with, described their grandchildren in glowing terms.
A few grandchildren lived with their parents and grandparents when they were babies and this created a strong bond between them. One grandson lived with his grandmother, and saw his mother regularly. Several grandparents cared for their grandchildren on a regular basis. One grandmother had seen her first grandson being born and missed the second child’s birth by 30 seconds.
Several people talked about how loving their grandchildren were. This was something they hadn't necessarily expected because of stereotypical views of autism.
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Grandparents had different levels of involvement in their grandchildren’s lives. Some grandchildren spent time at their grandparents’ house and slept over on a regular basis. One grandparent was not able to have her grandchildren to stay because her house wasn’t a suitable environment for them, but she looked after them in their own home. Several grandparents talked about taking their grandchildren out - this is discussed further in Going out.
“He makes it quite clear what he wants and what he doesn’t want” 
Some grandparents reflected on how their grandchildren didn’t always acknowledge them when they saw them, or how they could be quite “rejecting” at times. This was something they learnt to accept. As one grandmother said, she has learnt to respect what her grandson wants and accepts that she can’t spend equal amounts of time with her grandchildren because they have such differing interests. Another grandfather was undecided about whether his grandson is content with his own company or, in fact, “dreadfully isolated”.
Many people had learnt different ways of managing their grandchildren, and this is discussed further in ‘Emotions’.
Last reviewed August 2018.

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