For Your Child
Autistic Children Benefit from Grandparents' Involvement
A new survey shows that many grandparents play a key role in the lives of children with the developmental disorder called autism.
Grandparents are helping with child care and providing financial help to the care of youngsters with autism. In fact, the report found that some grandparents may have been the first to raise concerns about their grandchild prior to diagnosis.
Dr. Paul Law, director of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, says grandparents are a real asset for children with autism and their parents. "They have resources and time they can offer. But they also have their own needs, and they're impacted by their grandchild's autism, too," says Dr. Law.
Grandparents Step Up in Many Ways
At the start of the IAN project, which was designed to partner autism researchers and their families, Dr. Law said they got a lot of phone calls from grandparents who felt left out. "Grandparents felt that they had important information to share," he says.
Connie Anderson, Ph.D., the community scientific liaison for IAN, notes, "There is a whole level of burden that isn't being measured. Grandparents are worried sick about the grandchild with autism and for the parent - their child - too. If you're looking at family stress and financial burdens, leaving out that third generation is leaving out too much."
The IAN project, along with assistance from the AARP and Autism Speaks, surveyed more than 2,600 grandparents from across the country last year. The grandchildren with autism varied in age from one to 44.
They learned that many grandparents play a vital role for their grandchildren with autism and their families. The survey found that 14 percent of grandparents moved closer so that they could help, and 7 percent combined their households to help out. Nearly three-quarters of grandparents play a role in treatment decisions.
Grandparents Give Unconditional Love
The experts learned that almost one-third of grandparents provided direct child care at least once a week, and half of them take part in fund-raising efforts, such as autism walks. One-third are involved in political advocacy.
Just under one-quarter of the grandparents surveyed said they had done without something they wanted so they could help their grandchild financially, and 11 percent reported dipping into their retirement funds to help with their grandchild's needs, according to the study findings.
Dr. Law says, "One of the issues in autism is that there are some proven treatments that may not be covered by insurance. If you know that there's a treatment out there that might help your grandchild, it's difficult not to raid your retirement fund to help pay for it."
Dr. Anderson explains that one important thing that often gets overlooked is how much these relationships mean to the grandparents. She says there is a stereotypical idea that children with autism are cold and unfeeling.
"But, children with autism aren't cold most of the time, and some grandparents reported loving the child with autism even more than other grandchildren," says Dr. Anderson. "The grandparents really wanted the public to understand the disorder better."
Always consult your child's physician for more information.
Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that usually appears during the first three years of life. A child with autism appears to live in his/her own world, showing little interest in others, and a lack of social awareness.
The focus of an autistic child is a consistent routine and includes an interest in repeating odd and peculiar behaviors. Autistic children often have problems in communication, avoid eye contact, and show limited attachment to others.
Autism can prevent a child from forming relationships with others (in part, due to an inability to interpret facial expressions or emotions). A child with autism may resist cuddling, play alone, be resistant to change, and/or have delayed speech development. Persons with autism tend to exhibit repeated body movements (such as flapping hands or rocking) and have unusual attachments to objects.
However, many persons with autism excel consistently on certain mental tasks such as counting, measuring, art, music, and memory.
The cause of autism is not known. Research suggests that autism is a genetic condition. It is believed that several genes are involved in the development of autism. T
Research studies in autism have found a variety of abnormalities in the brain structure and chemicals in the brain; however, there have been no consistent findings.
One theory is the possibility that autistic disorder is a behavioral syndrome that includes several distinct conditions. However, parenting behaviors are not the cause or a contributing factor to the cause or causes of autism.
Specialized behavioral and educational programs are designed to treat autism. Behavioral therapy is used to teach social skills, motor skills and cognitive (thinking) skills.
Behavior modification is also useful in reducing or eliminating maladaptive behaviors. Individualized treatment planning for behavioral therapy is important as autistic children vary greatly in their behavioral needs.
Intensive behavior therapy during early childhood and home-based approaches training and involving parents are considered to produce the best results.
Special education programs that are highly structured focus on developing social skills, speech, language, self-care, and job skills. Medication is also helpful in treating some symptoms of autism in some children.
Mental health professionals provide parent counseling, social skills training, and individual therapy. They also help families identify and participate in treatment programs based on an individual child's treatment needs.
Always consult your child's physician for more information.
Disclaimer - This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. © 2009 Staywell Custom Communications.