Navigating the Grandparent Relationship and Having a Child on the Autism Spectrum

14115663_10154516240139802_510463038567214886_oWe are at the end of a 2-week visit in our home from the grandparents—which also coincided with back-to-school. Having guests always has its ups and downs with our child on the spectrum (it’s a change in routine for sure). In addition to managing my child’s anxiety about changes, I find myself managing the grandparents’ uncertainty about approaching my son with Asperger’s—and I get it that his reactions are sometimes unexpected and even downright hurtful.

For instance, the gifts they brought him remain unopened because he is simply uninterested in them and it’s not Christmas or his birthday (when he opens gifts). Tonight I’ll convince him to open them and there is likely to be a few brutally honest comments from him on how he feels about the gifts and potentially a complete lack of polite interest in them. Let the hurt feelings ensue.

Despite the extra work of figuring out these relationships, I think my son’s diagnosis has positively changed my relationship with my parents (who live across the country and only see rare glimpses of my life as I choose to share it over the phone since we only see each other 1-2 times/year). They see the extra back-breaking work (and lack of appreciation) that is sometimes a part of my life. I had a particularly difficult day a week ago when my son’s anxieties about a new school and school year and having guests hit a crescendo—and he really took it out on me. I wasn’t particularly graceful. But I, too, was overwhelmed by everything and they took him away to a reptile zoo for the day while I composed myself.

So, while I was not thrilled at the timing of their visit, it has ended up being good. They completely entertained my younger child all week as my 1st grader and I did all the back-to-school activities one-on-one (which was really good). I haven’t felt like a good hostess (I’ve luxuriated in extra time with friends, yoga classes, fishing, going to bed early and more) but I’m glad I could let go of that and let them take care of me.

Leading into the visit, I read and shared with them this grandparent’s guide from Autism Speaks. I’m curious how others navigate the grandparent relationship.



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