Family

How do you give a child struggling with autism more stability? Call in the grandparents.

Who better than family to make sure you and your child with autism are getting every service available?

How do you give a child struggling with autism more stability? Call in the grandparents.

In 2009, the CDC estimated that 1 in 110 children in the U.S. had autism spectrum disorders.

That was an increase from 1 in 150 just two years prior, and the number keeps increasing. But for families of children with autism, the reality is much more nuanced than those numbers can portray.

Parents of kids with autism tend to struggle with things that many of us cannot understand. They have less time to socialize and little time to do research on services available to their kids. Those services can be quite expensive, too. And sadly, some parents may even find themselves shunned by family and friends who don't quite understand autism. But of course, these parents are also blessed with unique and vibrant children — as with most of parenting, the experience is a mixed bag.


Image via iStock.

But now there's an exciting approach for families of kids with autism. Enter: grandparents.

Sociologist Eva Kahana, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, conducted a literature review of dozens of studies about parenting, special needs kids, and familial relationships. She suggests grandparents are ideal hangout buddies for children, especially those diagnosed with autism.

She found that grandparents can help parents raise autistic children who are better adapted because grandparents often build a bridge to understanding autism for everyone in the family. And because grandma and grandpa are often able to act as neutral "spokespeople" between the family of a child with autism and their extended family or the outside world. Grandparents often end up serving as surrogates, educating people and dispelling any misguided perceptions about autism, including fear and discomfort.

Most grandparents have already raised children, so they may be more aware than parents if their grandchild is showing signs of developing autism.

Most grandparents are extremely emotionally invested in their grandchildren, often second only to parents, so they are more likely to notice and push for an early diagnosis and treatment plan, too.

Image via iStock.

Also, grandparents typically have more time for caretaking and special attention.

That means they are able to do research on after-school programs and other services offered to children with autism that parents may not know about.

“Parents often accept limited services offered to the child at their local public schools, unaware of additional services that schools are required by law to provide to a child with a disability,” Kahana says.

Then there's the issue of money — there's something called a "special needs trust" that grandparents can open for a grandchild who has autism. The trust ensures that the child's future public benefits are never put at risk.

And who better to watch your kids?

Kahana found that children who struggle with autism are less likely to become agitated when grandma or grandpa babysit, as opposed to a babysitter they don't know at all. (Not to mention the added benefit of not having to pay them for their services — that frees up a lot of money parents can spend to improve the quality of life of their children!)

Image via iStock.

The best part is that these are just findings from one article dealing specifically with autism.

Other studies have shown lots of added benefits for children who spend time with their grandparents.

Grandmas and grandpas rule. They're there to spoil you, to say "yes" when your parents say "no," and to send you a lot of unconditional love. But while the bonds between kids and their grandparents are beautiful, they're also functional: They could drastically improve life for kids with autism and other special needs all over the world.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less