Woman talking to her mother about autism
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Explaining autism to grandparents

It can be very hard for friends and relatives to understand autism. For grandparents especially, autism is hard to grasp as they may have no experience of it. This creates a job for you as an educator for those around you who don’t know what is happening with your child.

It’s important to remember that we have a lot longer to get our heads round our child’s autism than other people in our lives. We may believe there is something different about our child from a very early age, and have years to learn about the condition before we receive a diagnosis. Be sure to give grandparents as much information as possible but bear in mind that it may be quite a lot for them to take on all at once.

How to talk about autism

  • Discuss the core issues of autism – problems with communication, social skills, repetitive behaviours, need for routine, etc.
  • Explain how these affect your child; remind the person of times when they have seen these traits in action.
  • Explain that these behaviours are not intentional, but part of your child’s neurological makeup.
  • Focus on positives – you have had your child assessed because it will bring them help in the future.
  • Point out that a diagnosis is only given when a child is truly autistic.
  • They may ask what caused your child’s autism – be prepared with the facts.
  • Give them ideas for how they can help you.

Important things to remember

  • Plan what you are going to say and think through potential counter-arguments.
  • Bear in mind that waiting until after diagnosis to speak to friends or family may cause upset as they may be hurt you didn’t confide in them sooner.
  • The issues your child has may not be obvious to the person you are speaking to.
  • You have had a long time to think, read and learn about autism. The person you are telling is getting this information for the first time when you tell them and it can be a lot to take in.
  • Just like you have to adjust to a ‘new life’, so may the person you are telling. They may need time to grieve for what they thought they would have.
  • Family may need help learning how to engage with your child.
  • People may react in a very different way to what you expected!

Autistic girl with grandmother

See the links below for ideas on how you can help the people in your life come to terms with your child’s autism:

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