It’s wonderful for us autism grandparents to be able to talk with other autism grandparents: to share stories, to compare situations, to ask for advice regarding our challenges, and to simply commiserate.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when we meet a new grandparent. “Tell me about your grandchild,” seems like a good way to begin. But sooner or later – usually sooner – we tend to make the conversation about our own grandchild and we ask for ideas on how to deal with our grandchild’s challenges.
All persons with autism are different, and thus other grandparents don’t have grandchildren that are exactly like ours and thus any tips or advice they provide concerning our grandchild may or may not be appropriate.
And while it can be emotionally beneficial to us to be able to tell another grandparent all about our own grandchild and his challenges, we usually don’t learn anything simply by talking about our own situations.
Following are six questions that we can ask other autism grandparents - questions that may yield answers that can be beneficial to our personal situations.
What are some of the things you do to foster and maintain a good relationship with your grandchild’s parents? (This is a primary concern for all grandparents, and we can often benefit from knowing what works for others.)
In addition to in-person interactions with your grandchild, do you do any other types of communication that are helpful? Telephone, Skype, snail-mail? (If you’re like me, you often feel lost on how to best to communicate with your grandchild other than in person.)
What is one of your grandchild’s biggest challenges, and have you found ways to be helpful? (Each of us autism grandparents recognizes “biggest challenges” in our grandchildren; we can learn from how other grandparents confront big challenges.)
What are some of the helpful ways that you engage your grandchild’s siblings? (If our autistic grandchild has siblings, there is always the challenge regarding how to treat them differently but appropriately.)
Do you have any tips on how to best relate to your grandchild’s other grandparents? (This can be a sticky wicket, because grandparents have different views on things and different relationships with the grandchild’s parents. But of course good grandparent-to-grandparent relationships can be wonderfully helpful.)
What are some of your methods for staying calm? (Even though we grandparents have more free time, get more sleep, see things in a broader perspective, etc., we are nevertheless subject to stress regarding our autistic grandchildren. All of us in the autism community can use as many calmness tips as we can get.)
Those of us who are autism grandparents get relatively few opportunities to talk with other autism grandparents. But when we do, we can learn a lot.