North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center – Guidelines Newsletter, February 2020

Support for Grandparents – Page 1

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center knows that real healing comes from supporting the entire family. That’s why we run two programs for grandparents: GASAK, for Grandparent Advocates Supporting Autistic Kids, and C-GRASP, for Caregiver Grandparent Respite and Support Program.

GASAK’s mission is to support, inform and advocate for grandparents with autistic grandchildren. At monthly meetings, GASAK participants share information on issues critical to families impacted by autism.

While there are many programs for parents of autistic kids, few address the specific issues that come up for grandparents, but at GASAK meetings, grandparents can share their concerns with their peers.

GASAK member Judy Greenberg says, “A lot of times your friends can’t relate to what you’re going through, but when you walk into the GASAK group, you feel comfortable instantly.”

Guest speakers, such as education lawyers, play a vital role at GASAK meetings. “When a grandparent leaves a meeting,” says Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at the Guidance Center, “they walk away with information that can make a huge difference in the lives of their children and grandchildren.”

But the camaraderie members experience is perhaps the most important benefit of the group.

“There is such compassion,” says one GASAK member. “By sharing our worries as well as our happy moments, we give new members hope.”

Grandparents In Charge

For a variety of reasons, sometimes grandparents are placed in the role of primary caregiver. That’s when C-GRASP comes in.

Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, Director of the Guidance Center’s Leeds Place, says these grandparents are often isolated, struggling with health and financial issues that add stress to the entire family.

Through partnerships with supportive local entities, the Guidance Center provides the grandparents with a variety of services, including counseling, housing help and school advocacy.

“The grandparents also have the opportunity to develop a social network with other grandparents who are experiencing the same life challenge,” says Taylor-Walthrust.

For the past eight years, Marie and Roger Dextra have been caring for their five grandchildren because of their daughter’s depression. Through C-GRASP, which is funded largely through the Town of North Hempstead’s Department of Aging, Guidance Center advocates go to the children’s school meetings on their behalf.

Despite the many hardships, the Dextras find joy in caring for their grandchildren. “It’s such a passion for me,” Marie says. “When I see them coming, I’m happy.”

With both C-GRASP and GASAK, the Guidance Center’s inclusive family approach helps create an environment in which children thrive!

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