GRAND Magazine - March/April 2018 - 23

grandchild health

My grandson is on the spectrum
BY GIORGINA LIGUORI

T

here are moments in life we never forget. For
me, one such moment was a phone call from my
daughter-in-law two years ago.
"Mom, I think there is something wrong with
Griffin." I thought she meant physically. "What's
wrong?" I asked. Sharon replied, "I think he has autism."
I said, "Sharon, I don't think so. He talks, he walks, and
he makes eye contact. He is 'with us.'" And then she said
the sentence that will haunt me forever, "Not anymore."
She said it happened suddenly, in one night. She'd
come home from work and called out to him. He didn't
answer, though he was only a few feet away. She thought
he was deaf. But no matter what she did, he did not seem
to acknowledge her presence in any way. It was as if a curtain had come down.

" "

"

If he can make sounds and
understands things have names,
why can't he speak?
She said, "I wish I knew."

Don't tell the parents what to do.
Sharon called and made an appointment with a well-known
specialist who confirmed a diagnosis of moderate to severe Autism.
My son Brian, Griffin's daddy, was scared and upset. He told
me once, "I go into the shower to cry." He believed he had to be
strong and not show how his heart was breaking. It broke my
heart to hear his sadness, but I listened.
I think listening is one of the most important things a grandmother of a child on the spectrum can do. Be there. Don't tell the
parents what they should do; listen and let them know that you are
still their mom and will always be their "safe place." Let them know:
You can be angry here. You can cry. You can express your fears and
your despair.
23 GRAND

MARCH APRIL 2018

children his age. He does not speak. It is really a strange
thing to comprehend. He can make sounds. He understands words and follows commands very well, but he
speaks very few words when prompted to speak and
those are vague at best. He understands the concept
of speech. I like ginger ale and so does Griffin. If I say,
ginger, he will attempt the word ale, which comes out
more like awl. But he understands that this is the word
for the soda. So, I asked one of his tutors, "If he can make
sounds, which he can, and if he understands that things
have names and he knows what those words are, why
can't he speak. She said, "I wish I knew."

Griffin has made great strides in the last few years. He is in a
special school and receives tutoring. He has a special voiced computer with pictures. He knows what he wants and can tell you by
pointing to pictures on his computer. He points to a picture and
the computer says "I WANT CHEERIOS." If you give him something different, he will go back and hit the Cheerios button again.
He can tell you, in the same way, if he wants to go outside, go
to the beach, etc. He can point out his sister, grandmother, family
friends, etc. If you tell him, "bring me your shoes, we're going
out." He brings the shoes. He laughs and plays with his sister and
her friends. He is an amazing athlete like his dad. He plays basketball and swims like the proverbial fish.
But he is still "on the spectrum." There is little interaction with

"

My grandson is a happy child. One of my friends said,
"He is a very lucky little boy." I know what she means. My
son is with him practically 24/7 and carries him on his
shoulders quite a bit. Brian seems to have infinite patience. The
boy is very attached to his daddy; that's his "go to" person.

Continue to read
In addition to being a mother of three and
proud grandmother of five, Giorgina Liguori
happily wears three more hats. She is a writer
for television, newspapers and books. She's a
counselor who runs women's and parenting
groups and was trained at Cambridge University
to teach writing classes to tweens and teens.


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GRAND Magazine - March/April 2018

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