The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Grappling with autism

How grandparents take part in families' struggles

To the A list of illnesses that affect older Americans — Alzheimer’s disease, which disables minds, and arthritis, which disables bodies  — we must add autism, which disables grandchildren and breaks their grandparents’ hearts.

“It is definitely a heartbreaker,’’ said Lee Granell, whose 17-year-old grandsons, identical twins Alex and Michael, have autism. She and her husband, Don, members of Christ Lutheran Church, Palatine, Ill., are far from alone in their heartache or involvement in their grandsons’ lives.

Bob Mueller, 15, responds to a hug
Bob Mueller, 15, responds to a hug from his grandmother Carol with a smile. The autistic teen is nonverbal.
Autism eludes easy definition. The Mayo Clinic staff describes it as: “One of a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders that appear in early childhood — usually before age 3. Though symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

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