Helping Children with Autism Bond with Grandparents

Helping Children with Autism Bond with Grandparents

It’s no secret that the grandparent-grandchild bond is one of the most special familial connections. 

The generational gap highlights the individuality of each family member, but despite the differences in age and life experience, this bond is often one that maintains boundless love, support, and encouragement for one another.

For grandparents with grandchildren with autism, this fundamental belief is no different. However, there are a few key nuances that demand a different approach for these family members to maintain an enriching and close bonding experience. 

If you’re a parent of a child with autism and want to ensure that your parents and your child have a deep connection, here are some tips to help forge this unique connection and keep it aflame.

Embrace your child’s attributes.

Children with autism have different communication styles that don’t fit the conventional societal norms, and these differences are something that both parents and grandparents should drill in their heads to not stress out their child. 

Practically speaking, this may mean engaging in play that suits a child’s sensory preferences or establishing predictable routines that match the needs of the child.

By doing these, children with autism can feel acknowledged and respected, and they can simultaneously provide love and respect to the grandparents who provide this special type of love.

Positively advocate for your grandparents to your child, and vice versa.

If you’re the parent of a child with autism, you can act as the bridge between them and their grandparents. For instance, you may need to make special effort to help your child understand the value and importance of their bond with their grandparents.

Similarly, you should also let your grandparents know about your child’s unique worldview. Remind them that autism is not a static disorder and that any preconceived notions should be dismissed as people on the spectrum can have very different experiences and mental behaviours.

This positive framing can help both parties mutually respect and understand each other’s individualities, which in turn can be a good way to help them forge a long-lasting and intimate bond.

Allow the grandparents to assume a special role in your child’s life.

If your autistic child has a special interest that’s dear to them, let the grandparents know all about it and encourage them to incorporate it into their routine meetups. 

For instance, if your child holds a special interest in toy cars, history books, or cool-looking rocks, grant their grandparents the privilege of giving them such a gift whenever they spend time together.

If your child enjoys a specific activity, like painting or listening to music, have their grandparents present in these moments. 

They don’t have to partake in the activity itself (although that would definitely be a plus). Being present during the moment of the child’s joy can be enough to communicate love and respect.

This shared joy can foster a unique connection between them, helping create a shared experience that both parties will uniquely cherish.

Have them meet at set schedules.

People with autism often gravitate towards set schedules. These children crave predictability and routine—and a parent needs to respect these differences.

In addition, elderly people also tend to prefer set schedules. This is because their energy tends to wane comparatively faster than their younger counterparts, and it’s important to hold the same respect for them in that sense.

Given this similar outlook, it’s a good idea for you to have these two parties meet and interact with one another during mutually agreed ideal time slots. For instance, they can meet up during weekend afternoons or once every two weeks. 

Having a consistent meetup time also helps them appreciate the time they spend together. It’ll also give both parties enough time to prepare for their upcoming social interaction, which is especially useful if their grandparents live in retirement villages like this one here.

Teach the grandparents how to be a safe space for your child.

It’s one thing to know how to interact with children with autism, it’s another thing to consistently be a safe space for them to be comfortable in their own skin.

As such, be sure to brief your child’s grandparents on how to comfortably connect with them. This can pave the way for a secure relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

One way to do this is by teaching the grandparents how to be emotionally receptive to your child’s needs. This can be done by offering a predictable environment for both these parties to interact and bond with one another.

Furthermore, be sure to key your parents in on the nuanced preferences of your autistic child. For instance, give them a heads up about their specific sensitivities, whether it’s loud sounds or highly-charged social places.

By doing these, both grandparents and grandchild will feel safe with one another and with themselves.

Nurture your child’s independence.

While it’s true that people with autism need special assistance in some cases, this doesn’t necessarily apply to every instance of their lives. This is especially true when it comes to interactions with their grandparents.

Where appropriate, encourage your child to explore their own abilities and socialise at their own pace with their grandparents.

Respect your child’s autonomy—this includes their individuality and different interests. Similarly, respect what their grandparents want in the relationship as well—whether it’s a physical activity like walking around the block or simply having a meal together.

By granting them the autonomy to make their own decisions, your child will feel confident and empowered to do things on their own. This adds control to their life and helps them understand their individuality, which can make them feel more secure and comfortable with their grandparents and the world at large.

Learn to be patient with both parties.

Bridging an intergenerational gap is a challenge on its own. When your child lives with autism, it can understandably be more difficult to communicate and find common ground.

For grandparents, patience would mean learning new ways to interact and adjusting expectations. For the child, it involves navigating the nuances of social cues and familial affection. 

For the parent of the autistic child, patience would mean understanding and empathising with the struggles and challenges felt by both parties and finding the best solution to make both sides happy.

Being patient, in that sense, isn’t a waiting game; it’s all about remaining steadfast and compassionate when undergoing this social learning curve. 

Blog written by Rebecca Lee from EXTRAS for Autism Advisory & Support Service

Like this article?


Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top