Today’s post, along with yesterday’s, comes from guest blogger Julie Riera Matsushima. She’s the author of For the Love of Aimee, a memoir of her relationship with her granddaughter Aimee who lives with special needs. Yesterday, Julie said the first priority of grandparents is to maintain a loving, supportive relationship with their children, the parents of the child with special needs. Today, she describes another component of grandparenting a child with special needs: how to be a supportive grandparent.

Grandparenting a Child with Special Needs: It Takes a Family

So what does it mean to become an involved and supportive grandparent?  What can you do to make a difference?  The quality of life provided to a child with special needs may largely depend on the quality of life experienced by the family as a whole.  Special needs children deserve the same good quality of life as their siblings and peers.  It may be a slightly different quality of life but nevertheless a good one.

Include Children in Family Events

Attitude, motivation and involvement on the part of the entire family, not just grandparents, can make all the difference in the world.  Inclusion in most, if not all, family activities, outings and travel will provide rich experiences and opportunities for the special needs child to develop their own identity within the extended family unit.

Grandparents can become involved in adaptive sports activities, which provide an outlet for physical activity and an opportunity to build self-confidence.   Music and art can also provide grandparents with opportunities to develop creative outlets and interest, even if it is simply listening to music or looking at an art exhibit together.  Reading, crafts, baking and other activities can provide hours of enjoyment and gratification when sharing this experience with a special needs child.

Make Your Home Accessible

Extended family should be prepared with appropriate equipment in their home that will provide a safe, accessible and secure environment when the child visits.  Walks together and outings at the local park are the most simple opportunities to enjoy nature and get to know each other.

Emotional well being and a sense of belonging, participating and inclusion will provide the child with rich opportunities and confidence to interact with others outside the extended family and reap the rewards of loving relationships with others in their lives.  Grandparents can provide activities that will also serve to develop appropriate behavior, communication and social skills.

Make a Difference

Involvement in the child’s school is another area rich in activities for grandparent involvement.  Participation in school activities, homework, reading and learning skills can provide the child a heightened level of interest and satisfaction in learning.

Grandparents should also arm themselves with knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and information about their own grandchild’s rights in school, in transportation, and in life in general.

It is obvious to me that special needs children simply want to be part of the human race; to participate in life the way all children do.  Grandparents can and do make a tremendous difference in their lives. I encourage you to think about what you have to offer and what you can do to make a difference to the family in your own life with a special needs child.

We can all make a difference.

Win a Free Copy of the Book!

Julie has generously donated three copies of For Love of Aimee for a book giveaway. To enter the drawing to win one of the copies, leave a comment about how grandparents are involved in your child’s life here or at the end of Part 1 of this series.. The cut off date for comments is midnight on Monday, July 11, 2011. This contest is now closed.

To learn more about Julie, visit her website at www.juliematsu.com.

Thanks, Julie, for sharing your insights with us. Aimee is blessed to have such a loving grandmother!

Part 1

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