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Grandparenting a Child With Special Needs

Information About Medical and Legal Issues, Plus More

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


child with special needs
Photo @ Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Bottom Line

A grandparent's most fervent wish is for healthy grandchildren. Most grandparents get their wish. This book is written for those who don't, those who have a grandchild with special needs. Grandparenting a Child With Special Needs, by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D., offers advice about coping with the diagnosis and exploring medical and legal resources, as well as providing actual care for the child.

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  • Informative
  • Readable
  • Well-organized


  • Very general


  • By Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D.
  • Good quality paperback
  • Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  • Geared toward readers in the U.K. and U.S.
  • Appendix of helpful resources

Guide Review - Grandparenting a Child With Special Needs


Drawing upon her fifty years experience as a pediatrician, Dr. Thompson uses a sympathetic but matter-of-fact approach that should comfort and encourage those with a grandchild with special needs. Her technique is to give general advice interspersed with real-life examples. The author does not provide documentation for her examples, but they appear to be either from her personal experience or from the answers to a questionnaire that she devised.

The book is divided into five sections.

Section I: Support for the Whole Family

This first section focuses upon dealing with a diagnosis and also helping other family members adjust.

Section II: Grandparents Take Over

Dr. Thompson recognizes the role of the grandparents in assisting modern families, many of which are two-career families. In this section she advises the grandparents who will be responsible for giving care to a grandchild with special needs. Comprehensive chapters address safety, grooming and hygiene, self-esteem and many other caregiver concerns.

Section III: Medical and Legal Issues

Grandparents can often assist parents in navigating the medical and legal systems in order to get the best care for a special needs child.

Section IV: You Need Time Too

Grandparents of a special needs child sometimes neglect their own needs. They need to take care of themselves and also anticipate the challenges that the future will bring.

Section V: Help From Others and Appendix

The questionnaire answers from parents and grandparents are contained in this section, along with an appendix of helpful addresses, toll-free numbers and websites.

I found the section containing parents' responses to questionnaires most enlightening and also heart-breaking. Many times there is a huge divide between what the parents would like from the grandparents, and what the grandparents are doing. Some respondents chastised the grandparents for treating the special child differently from siblings. Some respondents were upset that the grandparents didn't recognize that the special child is different. Reading this section made me realize the importance of family communication.

One of this book's assets is also its greatest liability. Dr. Thompson does not limit the special needs she addresses. They can be apparent at birth or diagnosed later; they can be physical, mental or behavioral. Because of her generosity of scope, some grandparents will feel that their particular situation is not adequately addressed. They will want more specific information. For the grandparent in search of general coping strategies, however, this book is perfect.

Read more about grandparenting a child with special needs or write about your own grandchild with special needs.

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