Grand Parenting Autism
I wanted 12 children. I knew from the time I played with dolls that parenting was my career path. When I actually began my family I had matured enough to realize that having 12 children was probably excessive. I realistically decided that 8 would be far more manageable! When my babies came and I was pregnant with my sixth, I knew that half a dozen was enough for me. That premonition was obviously a message that I didn't understand until my usual natural childbirth M.O. turned into an emergency caesarian. My last baby was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and his breathing problems led to cerebral palsy. My son is now 26, severely disabled, and demands one on one care. He will live with my husband and me our entire lives.
In spite of the fact that our son will never walk, talk, sit-up, or live independently, I didn't know what living with a disabled child was until my oldest child's two boys were born and diagnosed with Asbergers and Autism. The oldest boy is fairly high functioning but in many ways this adds to his disability. He speaks well and spoke at the average stage as a baby. He is large for his age, giving him an oppressive presence and making it easy to assume he is a bully when in fact he is usually the one being bullied. But, he's off and his peers know it. He has no friends at the age of 9 and his frustration level is low making his unexplainable anger always a surprise and exhausting. He was our first grandchild and gave us the new and unexpected knowledge that having children was a blessing but GRAND CHILDREN are the true meaning of joy. My husband and I have four boys and two girls. The father of my autistic grandchildren had his own demons to battle as a child. Diagnosed with ADHD, school was a struggle and impulse control was a huge bother. His athletic ability carried him through those tough years of high school and his ADHD has blessed him with a good work ethic and fortunately he works in construction so he is busy! When his first child was a big baby boy he was thrilled and they donned matching jerseys for their first super bowl together.
In spite of his size, our little boy will not be a good athlete. He can hardly crawl into the backseat of a car. Is it common for children with Aspergers to be chunky? It doesn't seem to matter what he eats. He gained 15 lbs in one summer and can't seem to lose it. His sensory disorder prevents him from enjoying loud environments like a basketball game and his dislike for crowds made cub scouts a venue of torture for him and the den mothers!
By the time my son's second child was born we had two other grandchildren and another born right after. The other children were girls so we assumed that their extreme verbal abilities could be explained by the gender fact that girls usually speak sooner and better than little boys. I knew this baby was off though. He couldn't bounce on your knee, he couldn't bend at the waist and he arched back when you tried to hold him. He didn't smile or coo. This little boy is also big for his age. I of course should note that my son is 6'2" and his wife is also tall. This little boy is now 4.5 and the only sounds he makes are partial words combined with sounds that replicate a gremlin.
We now have almost ten grandchildren and here is the confession, it's really hard grand parenting children with Autism! It's not fun, it's work! We watched those two little boys yesterday and kept them overnight. We tried to take them to the mall to buy some new shoes but pushing a wheelchair filled with a spastic, slobbering 26 year old, chasing a mumbling, squeaking 4 year old, and trying to console an angry 9 year old, made for quite a sight! As you all know food is always an issue. We tried to eat at the food court. I didn't know the 4 year old didn't like chocolate milk. What child doesn't like chocolate milk? He almost sent it flying. I had to leave the wheelchair and my purse to chase him down and drag him back to the table. My husband and I had to divide to conquer and we were exhausted by the time we got home. Going to bed started out pretty good but when I tried to put them to bed in the other bedroom, shall I say, all hell broke loose. After he emerged from underneath the bed, ran to the other bedroom, locked the door and screamed. My husband was able to get him to open the door and we figured out he wanted to sleep in the crib he was used to. He finally went to sleep but was awake at 4:30am. I got him back to sleep after an hour and he slept until 9. I could go on but this is not news to you who all live in this autistic world too.
Would any parent, grandparent, teacher, bus driver, or candlestick maker rather spend the day with this chaos or with children that color all day or want to sit quietly in the movie theater? Can you blame the other siblings who aren't really excited to vacation together? Autism not only touches the family directly but reaches out to all the members of the extended family and slaps the lot of us. Our heartstrings are not only tugged but wrapped, tied, and knotted. We don't love our autistic grandchildren less, in fact, the sorrow, the feeling of compassion, the struggle, makes us love these little boys so deeply.
We are encouraged by the wonderful school district these boys live in. We are encouraged by sources such as this one that will share and give us hope and knowledge and we are a strong family. We are use to trials and difficulties in life. We will do this, but, some days, we are tired.