When they visit

Ask the parents what kind of equipment would be helpful if the family are coming to stay with you – eg protective mattress covers.

Respite

We noticed whenever anyone offers to take out one of the children; it is never the child with special needs. We also noticed all the other children are often invited out. Our daughter was never getting a break from being with Billy. We therefore try to take Billy regularly.

It happens to other people doesn't it?

Be sensitive to the grandparents. They too are struggling to come to terms with what has happened. If there is a history in the family, it may ease their worry, on the other hand they may be seeing a bleak future for you and the child. However, their experience is a generation ago and things have improved immeasurably, so do make sure they understand this. It may be easier for each of you to do the explaining to the in-laws.

Charities can be helpful

Some charities and support groups provide explanatory leaflets and it's worth priming the grandparents with these, especially if they are new to disability and you are struggling to explain the situation clearly.

Let it go

If your parents are looking after your child and they use the TV as a babysitter just let it go – don’t insist they must do an activity or outing. Make looking after their grandchild easy for them so they will want to offer to do it again.

Need to know

While grandparents need a clear understanding of the person's difficulties I don't think they have to be given a blow-by-blow account of daily life. If they are close enough to help - great, if you only see them occasionally you may need to up-date them beforehand.

Give them a chance

Be ready to make allowances and give grandparents a chance. You will probably need all the help you can get and someone who will babysit /take their grandchild for a walk/give them tea or just keep in touch with love and support is worth a bit of teeth gritting and extra explanations!

Family history

Grandparent’s knowledge of family history can be invaluable too - to realise that great-uncle Bernard probably had autistic spectrum disorder but made a satisfactory living from drawing maps can be a great comfort, as can the information that your partner was a Very Fussy Eater - and grew out of it!

It’s the person that counts

Get to know your grandchild as an individual not as a person with a label.

Article on grandparents

This is an interesting article on grandparents of children with special needs.

Eyes wide open

Grandparents should try to notice when parents might be struggling even though they seem to be coping.

They'll say yes to you

Sharon wouldn’t let anyone look after her daughter because she was worried her daughter's needs would not be understood and so she wouldn’t be looked after properly. You may be the only people who can give your child some respite.

Acknowledge and praise

Remember it's important to acknowledge and praise your child. Acknowledge how hard their situation is and how they must be feeling and praise them for managing well.

Keep offering

Don't wait to be asked for help - keep offering and being thoughtful as to how you can help eg can we help with shopping.

Hospital and doctor visits

Even if you are not asked, do offer to go with the parent/carer to keep them company for hospital appointments/visits and hospital stays. Company is always appreciated and on a practical level it will mean they can at least nip to the toilet or go and grab something to eat.

Birthday present

Presents are always difficult - I bought my grandson a digital photo frame full of family pictures and he loves it.

Give plenty of info

Try to give grandparents as much info about your child's condition as possible, as it helps them understand and help you more. It also gives them more confidence to help or visit, as they know what to expect and how to react to your child.

Never underestimate pound shops!

You can spend a fortune in special needs catalogues, but I've bought lots of presents for my grandson from pound shops – especially tactile resources. My latest is a microfibre cleaning mitt. I use it like a hand puppet and it glows in my Ultra Violet (UV) light.

Keep in stocks

Keep a draw full of kit that your grandchild with special needs typically uses. Be it pads, syringes, a cheap fiddle toy. That way you can always be prepared for a visit and it makes it easier all round!

Small challenges without pressure

I have always found that setting my autistic grandson even a small challenge, without pressure, reaps rewards and gives pleasure. For example, staying as still as possible for our rabbit to eat from his hand. It never fails.

Share your tips and feedback

We'd love to hear your tips, practical suggestions and feedback.
This link will open in a new window.

Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.