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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Grandparents Keep Distance from Autistic Grandchild

Written by  Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

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QDear Dr. Sylvia,

I am the mother of an autistic child. I am having a lot of trouble with my in-laws who are unwilling to help or even become involved in my daughter's life. Is there anything you can suggest?

AWith all the special struggles that go with having an autistic child, it would be nice to get support and help from grandparents. Unfortunately, it is not easy for adults to know how to relate to an autistic child. Although time and encouragement may help to involve your in-laws, it might be good for you to ask them to do a specific task, like teach your child to catch and return a ball or play a simple game.

I don't know how old your daughter is, but try to think of a simple learning skill, which typically with autistic children needs much repetition and positive reinforcement, and ask your in-laws to work with her on that. They will understand both the effort needed and the excitement to be had in teaching their granddaughter an interactive skill.

You will need to be patient. There is little reason to direct your anger and frustration at them. I expect they feel they did their job in raising your wonderful husband and simply can't find a connection to your little girl. Many adults do come around, and with a little more time, learn to feel very close and loving toward autistic children. There is much we have learned about helping autistic children, but much that continues to be a mystery, particularly to those who are not with your daughter on a daily basis.

Dr. Sylvia Rimm

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 October 2011 08:54
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Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Dr. Sylvia Rimm is a psychologist and best-selling author with a national following. She is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

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