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Grandparents Play Vital Role for Autistic Children
Date:4/30/2010

Many help with child care, treatment decisions and political advocacy, study finds

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism often have more than just their parents in their corner, with a new survey showing that many grandparents also play a key role in the lives of kids with the developmental disorder.

Grandparents are helping with child care and contributing financially to the care of youngsters with autism. In fact, the report found that grandparents are so involved that as many as one in three may have been the first to raise concerns about their grandchild prior to diagnosis.

"The amazing thing is what an incredible asset grandparents are for children with autism and their parents," said Dr. Paul Law, director of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. "They have resources and time they can offer, but they also have their own needs, and they're impacted by their grandchild's autism, too. We shouldn't ignore them when we think about the impact of autism on society."

At the start of the IAN project, which was designed to partner autism researchers and their families, Law said they got a lot of phone calls from grandparents who felt left out. "Grandparents felt that they had important information to share," he said.

"There is a whole level of burden that isn't being measured. Grandparents are worried sick about the grandchild with autism and for the parent -- their child -- too," said Connie Anderson, the community scientific liaison for IAN. "If you're looking at family stress and financial burdens, leaving out that third generation is leaving out too much."

So, to get a better handle on the role grandparents play in the lives of children with autism, the IAN project -- along with assistance from the AARP and Autism Speaks -- surveyed more than 2,600 grandparents from across the country last year. The grandchildren with autism varie
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