Raising Grandchildren with Autism

By Michelle Antle, Ed.S

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “almost 7.8 million children are living in homes wheregrandparents or other relatives are the householders, with more than 5.8 million children living in grandparents' homes."  Many of these grandparents are also raising grandchildren with special needs. These numbers are staggering. AARP states that “these grandparents (and the children they are raising) are often isolated, lack information about the range of support services, resources, programs, benefits, laws and policies that may be available to help them successfully fulfill their care giving role.”

Rhonda Lawrence is one such grandparent.  She is currently raising her nine year-old grandson, Colton. Colton has lived with her most of his life.  In early elementary, Colton was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Even though his diagnosis was a lot to swallow, Ms. Lawrence did not hesitate to immediately begin searching for resources to help.  She is a single grandparent and has made many sacrifices in order to ensure Colton has all that he needs. She works long hours and has recently had to switch back to third shift in order to be able to care for Colton during his waking hours.  Colton is a brilliant young man and has progressed greatly thanks to the interventions his grandmother fought so hard for him to have! She is fortunate to have support from other family members that live close, and credits them for Colton’s successes too.  Ms. Lawrence emphasizes the importance of networking with other caregivers and professionals to stay up to date and in close communication with those that can help ensure successful outcomes for kids!

Autism Speaks has created “A Grandparent's Guide to Autism”. This family support tool kit is designed to help guide and encourage grandparents to establish positive and successful relationships with their grandchildren and the rest of their families.

Click here to read Autism Speaks “Grandparent's Guide to Autism.”