Family Forum: Supporting Family

Wanting to help a grandson living with Autism.


I need some advice regarding a grandson who has Asperger’s syndrome, nowadays more commonly referred to as low-spectrum autism. He is in his late 30s and is unfortunate in being undiagnosed until quite recently. He is highly intelligent, with multiple tertiary degrees. These he achieved despite the traumatic accidental death of his father and best mate at that time, many years ago now. He is married to a gentle woman of similar age and they have a young son. My concern is the lack of consistent and suitable employment. He often does work that he finds unfulfilling. Some poetry he has written is astonishing in its perceptivity and language; and in its sadness. He also has some artistic and musical talent.I am unable to help him financially before I die.


The American Psychiatric Association removed the term Asperger’s syndrome from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Instead, they introduced the idea of level one, two and three as diagnostic categories within the autism spectrum, with level one now used for people previously diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome.However, this has been controversial and many people still use and prefer the previous term.The reasons for the change reflects the fact that the experience of many who are seen as being on the autism spectrum is very individualised. Your grandson’s poetry highlights this. Every person has their own strengths and limitations and this is particularly true for adults when, for example, it comes to employment.The most important aspect is that the individual’s talents are recognised both by themselves and by any prospective employer. Stereotyped assumptions generated by cultural memes, such as the movie Rain Man, about what people with autism can or cannot do should be avoided. It is also important not to assume that because a person has had some trauma in their lives that this will result in a permanent handicap for them.There are several useful support services available to adults with autism and their families. These include Autism SA, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Advice on employment can also be gained from the Disability Employment Services website of the Australian Department of Social Services.The panel recommends that you discuss your desire to help and possible supports with your grandson and his wife. If you find it difficult to discuss your concerns with them, you may wish to consult a counsellor or psychologist who can advise you on the best way to assist.

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