Nanor’s Tale: A Story of Unconditional Love for My Grandson with Autism

It was Father’s Day 12 years ago that our daughter and son-in-law told us we were to become grandparents for the first time, there was excitement, joy and anticipation awaiting his arrival. He was two weeks late and had a very traumatic entry into the world, being finally delivered by emergency C section.

He was not a good sleeper and often had night terrors, which were alarming, not least because nobody could explain why he had them, thankfully as time went by he grew out of the terrors. During the day he was a very content baby.


As time progressed so did our gorgeous boy. He would smile for the camera, react to music, especially his favorite, “Take That” song. There were other songs he would love to bounce around to. He also did some odd things. He would sit for ages just watching the washing go round in the washing machine and dryer, put cars into the washing machine and spin the drum round and round. When he started walking, it was always up on his toes.

In many ways he seemed like the perfect baby. He would sit playing with his favorite toys indefinitely, not moving from them. But he failed to reach some of his milestones. His speech was delayed, the food he would eat became very limited and he didn’t like cuddles.

At around three, just as his younger brother arrived, our beautiful boy was diagnosed as autistic. Oh, how our world changed! Our daughter had a new baby and a child we knew would need help to reach his goals and potentials, this was a huge learning curve for us all.

Things he liked doing he would do endlessly, like jigsaws, his watermat, trains and tracks. He could do jigsaws for much older children, just looking at the shape and putting them together, never looking at the picture.

At pre-school he was given extra help, but he didn’t interact with other children, preferring to play by himself, cocooned in his own little world.

Gradually we discovered things he liked to do, he had no fear and still doesn’t! The highest slide, most difficult climbing frame and being pushed as high as possible on the swing were all challenges he faced head on. He loved the swimming pool and would spend many happy hours jumping in.

I found early on that he loved to cook with me. We would make and ice cake, cook bacon for breakfast. He loved putting his toppings on his pizza. He would put the timer on and sit in front of the cooker watching them bake. Spending this time with him was a joy, I didn’t get cuddles or kisses, but I got something equally as valuable, I got his time and attention.

We got him his own chef’s hat with his name on it and oven gloves. As he became my helper in the kitchen, he would send everyone else away because he was in charge. Telling them he was the chef’s helper, and he alone was helping his Nanor.

Birthdays were and still are interesting. In the early days it didn’t matter whose birthday it was; he would always think it was his and have a meltdown when he wasn’t allowed to open the presents. He loves a birthday cake made by me and blowing out the candles but under no circumstances were we allowed to sing happy birthday to him or anybody else and we still aren’t.

He is now a handsome eleven year old, at middle school and doing very well. He loves sports and is very quick but he absolutely hates loosing. No matter how often we explain that he can’t always win, he really struggles with not finishing first.

 His enjoyment of music continues to shine through. He recently joined the school steel band, which he loves, he has even performed in front of an audience; which is an enormous achievement for him and one which we are all extremely proud of.

He and I spend less time in the kitchen cooking, but that’s ok, he’s growing up and has more demands on his time. For starters, he has two younger cousins and his younger brother. He adores babies and will spend ages engaging with them, playing, feeding and listening out for them crying. He is gradually becoming more tactile, giving us the occasional hug or high five.

I don’t really know what, if anything our gorgeous first grandson has gained from all our love and attention. I am certain he knows we love him unconditionally and that he has enriched our lives. He’s been interesting, challenging and has made us think of different ways to interact with him, but we wouldn’t change a thing.

Author: Karen Woollett “Nanor’s Tale”

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