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These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
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!
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 UV light.
Give plenty of infoTry 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.
Presents are always difficult - I bought my grandson a digital photo frame full of family pictures and he loves it.
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. Also makes it less miserable for them.
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.
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.
They'll say yes to you
Sharon wouldn’t let anyone look after her daughter because she was worried her daughters 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.
Eyes wide open
Grandparents should try to notice when parents might be struggling even though they seem to be coping.
Article on grandparents
This is an interesting article on grandparents of children with special needs: Article
Its the person that counts
Get to know your grandchild as an individual not as a person with a label.
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 !
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!
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.
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.
Charities can be helpful
Some charities & 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. Eg Mencap's guide to Having a Child with a learning disability www.mencap.org.uk/guides.
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 inlaw.
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.
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.
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