How to Communicate with a Grandchild Who Has Autism
As deaths related to cancer and the opioid epidemic fall, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is on the rise again. According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy is 78.6 years. With grandparents enjoying longer, healthier lives, they are playing an ever-expanding role in the lives of their grandchildren.
From chauffeuring the grandkids to after-school events to taking them on summer vacations, spending time together can build bonds that last a lifetime. Research also shows that intergenerational relationships benefit both the younger family member and the older one in a number of ways. Experiencing unconditional love, greater self-esteem, and a sense of purpose are just a few.
But what happens when a grandchild has autism?
While most people have heard of the disorder, many aren’t aware of what it is and how to communicate with a child who has it. If you are a grandparent struggling to find ways to bond with your grandchild, these tips can help.
When a Grandchild Has Autism
First, it may be beneficial to learn more about the disorder, which the National Institutes of Health says impacts communication and behavior. A few sites that can help you better understand autism include:
Learning more about the disorder will allow you to better communicate with your grandchild and manage their more challenging behaviors.
Here are a few suggestions for spending meaningful time with a grandchild who has autism:
- Acknowledge the differences: Know that this disease is actually a spectrum disorder. Symptoms and their severity can vary greatly. Your grandchild may respond differently than another child with autism. That means you shouldn’t give up just because something isn’t working. Try a different approach instead.
- Use your grandchild’s name: A common refrain among people trying to communicate with a person who has autism is that they don’t pay attention. When you speak to your grandchild, try using their name more. That can help signal that you are talking to them.
- Bond over a hobby: Using a grandchild’s favorite hobby or pastime can provide you with an opportunity to interact and bond. Find low-key ways to engage in an activity together, even if you only have a supporting role.
- Keep it simple: Autism can make it difficult for a child to filter out information. By using fewer words and details, you can help them to better process what you are saying.
- Speak slowly: You’ll likely find it is helpful to speak slowly and clearly. Pause between words to give your grandchild a chance to understand what you are asking and formulate a response.
- Watch for anxiety: When the child appears to be anxious, it’s time to simplify your interactions and try to calm things down. Avoiding eye contact is one option to try. Limit your hand gestures and facial expressions.
- Be mindful of language: It’s important to remember that people with autism take everything you say literally. Sarcasm, rhetorical questions, and exaggerated speech make communication tough for them.
- Follow their lead: Instead of trying to get a grandchild with autism to enter your reality, step into theirs. Follow their lead and join in whatever activity they are engaged in.
We hope these tips help you become more comfortable spending time with a grandchild or other family member who has autism.
Stay Safe While Traveling
If you are looking forward to a trip to visit your grandchildren, make sure your travel plans include safety precautions. One device that may give you and your loved ones peace of mind is our Mobile Monitoring Unit. With the push of a button, you can talk with one of our 24/7 emergency operators. These devices work indoors, outdoors, and even in the shower!