Looking after your grandchild may not be an option for all grandparents, so how else can you support your family?
Parents often say they feel devastated when they realise their child has autism and that they grieve for the child they thought they had. Parents can often feel depressed and do not know which way to turn.
It may be that you can support them by becoming their advocate. As well as learning about autism and how best to manage their child, there are other considerations parents need to take into account. They may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance and other benefits, social services may be able to offer respite or a support worker for the family and their child may be able to have extra support at school. There are also a number of courses and support networks available for parents.
Find out about benefits for children with autism.
Claiming extra support often means spending hours filling in forms, which is often very difficult and draining if you have a child with autism. It may be that you offer to research and help them to apply for benefits and services. Here is a brief outline of some of the more common services available. Call our Autism Helpline for more detailed information.
Support from social services
Every child with autism is different and has different needs. There is a range of services that families may be able to access, including respite care, after-school or holiday schemes, and grants for housing adaptations or equipment.
The services are means-tested so the family may have to pay for some of the resources.
To see if your family is entitled to services you, or your son or daughter, will need to write to your grandchild's local social services department. Explain that your grandchild has autism and ask for an assessment. A template letter is available from our Autism Helpline if you would like one.
The Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 and the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 require local authorities to assess the needs of carers and, where necessary, to provide services to meet those needs. If you request an assessment for your grandchild you could also request a carers' assessment for your child.
If your family is not entitled to support from social services or you do not wish to take this route, there are a number of charity respite services that may be able to help. See the list at the bottom of our recommended reading for more information.
Again, the amount of support your son/daughter may need or want from you may vary. Some parents do not want to involve social services at all, so their wishes need to be respected.
Support at school
Some children with autism will go to mainstream schools, perhaps with extra support; others will go to a specialist provision. Our Autism Helpline has an information sheet about choosing a school.
Depending on their needs, your grandchild may access different 'stages' of support at school. These include Early Years/School Action; Early Years/School Action Plus; or the support that come from having a statement of special educational needs. Your grandchild may not need a diagnosis to access some extra support in school. Our Autism Helpline can give you more information about education for children with autism.
Parent support networks
There are support groups for parents across the country: search our Autism Services Directory for groups in your area, or can call the Autism Helpline and we will search for you.
We have a Parent to Parent line where a parent of a child with autism can speak to one of our volunteer parents (who also have a child with autism).
Our Autism Helpline holds a list of NHS and private counsellors who have knowledge of autism and can help family members come to terms with a diagnosis or work through behaviour strategies.
We run a number of different training courses for parents and carers and the family, such as the Autism Seminars for Families.