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J Autism Dev Disord. 2019 Feb;49(2):738-749. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3753-0.

The Role of Grandparents in Supporting Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Family Systems Approach.

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Enable Ireland Children's Services, Lavanagh House, Cork, Ireland.
School of Education, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
School of Education, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


A family systems approach is required to identify the needs of families of children with autism. This paper explores how grandparents support children with autism and their parents using a family systems perspective. A thematic analysis of eighteen semi-structured interviews was conducted with participants from nine families, capturing experiences of both parents' and grandparents'. Themes identified were family recalibrating; strengthening the family system; and current needs and future concerns of grandparents. The views of families indicated the overwhelming need to acknowledge the grandparental role in supporting families that strengthen the family system by supporting the needs of a child with autism. Findings revealed that grandfathers have a calming role in these families where children have significant behavioural difficulties.


Autism; Family systems approach; Family systems theory; Grandfathers; Grandparents; Parents

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