Dealing with (and caring for) special needs grandchildren is becoming more common.
As Autism becomes a national plague, grandparents are needed to help more than ever.
Autism now affects one in 68 children. Just two years ago, it was one in 88 children. Boys are five times more susceptible than girls, with one in 42 boys diagnosed with autism each year.
As noted in the two year increase, there are no signs of slowing down.
Autism is one of the fastest-growing disorders in the U.S. alone.
Currently, there is no medical cure for autism. Families faced with this dreaded disease are saddled with medical costs that can run as much as an extra $60,000 per year.
In our family, deafness is the special need that runs deep. Two children of my own children have differing degrees of hearing loss, as well as four grandsons. One grandson is profoundly deaf. He has no speech.
Many autistic children lose their verbal ability with the onset of the disease. Sign language is helpful for them. However, normal social interaction is difficult at best, none existent at worse.
If you have a grandchild that has just been diagnosed with a special need, you can be that family’s greatest asset. There are a few steps you can take to help out the family.
• Educate yourself. Learn all you can about the disease or special need. This is not so you can educate the parents, it is so you can understand some of the decisions the parents will be making. Many of which will not seem right to you. That’s ok. They have to follow their instincts with their children. You wouldn’t want them to do any less.
• Remember that the parents are ultimately responsible for the care of their special needs child.
• Caring for a special needs child is exhausting. They can drain a family’s resources and energy.
• If you can relieve them, and let them take a break now and then by taking over care, great. Do so, as often as you can.
• Put some extra care into the siblings without special needs. They are usually the ones that go unnoticed, because they don’t require the attention that special needs children require.
• Don’t feel bad that you are giving more attention to siblings that need it. Everything will balance out in the end.
It’s important to keep in mind that raising a special needs child is much different than raising a “normal” child. Be careful not to judge the parents, but rather, always offer your support. And perhaps become an oasis of rest for weary parents.