It can be very hard for friends and relatives to understand autism. For grandparents especially, autism is hard to grasp as they may have no experience of it. This creates a job for you as an educator for those around you who don’t know what is happening with your child.
It’s important to remember that we have a lot longer to get our heads round our child’s autism than other people in our lives. We may believe there is something different about our child from a very early age, and have years to learn about the condition before we receive a diagnosis. Be sure to give grandparents as much information as possible but bear in mind that it may be quite a lot for them to take on all at once.
How to talk about autism
- Discuss the core issues of autism – problems with communication, social skills, repetitive behaviours, need for routine, etc.
- Explain how these affect your child; remind the person of times when they have seen these traits in action.
- Explain that these behaviours are not intentional, but part of your child’s neurological makeup.
- Focus on positives – you have had your child assessed because it will bring them help in the future.
- Point out that a diagnosis is only given when a child is truly autistic.
- They may ask what caused your child’s autism – be prepared with the facts.
- Give them ideas for how they can help you.
Important things to remember
- Plan what you are going to say and think through potential counter-arguments.
- Bear in mind that waiting until after diagnosis to speak to friends or family may cause upset as they may be hurt you didn’t confide in them sooner.
- The issues your child has may not be obvious to the person you are speaking to.
- You have had a long time to think, read and learn about autism. The person you are telling is getting this information for the first time when you tell them and it can be a lot to take in.
- Just like you have to adjust to a ‘new life’, so may the person you are telling. They may need time to grieve for what they thought they would have.
- Family may need help learning how to engage with your child.
- People may react in a very different way to what you expected!
See the links below for ideas on how you can help the people in your life come to terms with your child’s autism:
- We’ve created this Talking about autism worksheet to help you prepare for conversations with friends and family
- The National Autistic Society (NAS) has some advice for grandparents on this page
- Contact A Family also have an Advice for Grandparents guide
- The Grandparent Autism Network is an excellent site with lots of tips
- 7 tips for bonding with your autistic grandchild
- A general guide to autism for everyone