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Jean L. Daniel

Jean L. Daniel

M.Ed., Ed.S.

Jean (or as we know her, “Mom,” and “Grandma,”) is an educator with a B.S. in elementary education, and a master’s and specialist degrees in early childhood. She taught elementary-aged children for thirty years, and was honored as Carroll County Teacher of the Year, as well as Georgia Student Supervisor Teacher of the Year.  Jean’s expertise as an educator gives her a unique perspective on childhood development, and when combined with being the grandmother of an aspie, our very own Abby, her insights are highly valuable!

Grandmas look for 10 fingers and toes too!

I am the proud grandmother of six grandchildren, three girls and three boys whom I love very much. Abby was the fifth one born and the last girl. Just like the parents of a newborn, a grandmother, also, looks to see if there are ten fingers and ten toes. There is no way, however, to check out the way the brain functions at birth. As long as the physical appearance seems okay, everyone takes a sigh of relief and life goes on. Although there were risks surrounding Abby’s birth, which you will likely hear about in other blogs, she seemed the typical baby. Eating, sleeping, crying and pooping…and there seemed to be a lot of that. She loved to be swaddled and her daddy was the expert at that.  Aspergers or autism was the last thing on our minds.

Look at ME, please…not the ceiling fan…

Although I did not live very close to my daughter, Jodi, I made it a point to visit often with the new granddaughter in the family. Just a few short weeks after Abby’s birth, I noticed that she would stare at the ceiling fan turning round and round. If taking a bottle, her head would turn and her eyes would search for it. We thought it was somewhat funny, but soon it seemed she had an obsession with the fan.  After a month or two when babies normally start to focus on your eyes and respond to your voice, Abby would ignore you. I noticed this but didn’t want to sound like a worried grandma. When the time came for her to start smiling and cooing, nothing! She gave us a blank stare, if anything at all. I felt that I was in an awkward position of being concerned, but at the same time dreaded mentioning anything to my daughter and her husband. Maybe she was just slower than normal, if there is such a thing.

Another obsession Abby had at a very early age was watching Baby Einstein videos. They were designed for babies but Jodi refused to “park” her infant in front of the TV. Nonetheless, Abby loved them so much that the moment the introductory music came on, she would begin swinging her arms and fussing to be placed in front of the TV.   She would stare at the screen for a very long time, completely mesmerized.  Although it was certainly odd, autism still didn’t occur to me.

Recognizing reality is rough

Soon, around the age of 6 months, Jodi and I discussed some things that we were both seeing and it seemed that Abby was just not developmentally up to par. Fortunately, Jodi and Randall were very open and willing to recognize that there was a problem.  Some parents are often too frightened to recognize this, and don’t pursue help for their child.  This is unfortunate because early intervention has proven to be very advantageous for many children.  Thankfully, there were services available to Abby, and although Abby’s Aspergers diagnosis did not come until much later, this early intervention made a huge impact on her development.

Aspergers?  YES, my grandbaby!

If you, as a grandparent, suspect something needs further attention, tactfully discuss it with the parents. Often, the baby is a first child for them and they are not really aware of what developmental traits should be occurring at various ages. Early intervention is so important! Also, do not be embarrassed to share with you friends that your grandchild has Aspergers, or is on the autism spectrum. There is no shame related to this, and many others have the same situations in their families, too!  Research the topic and learn as much as you can about Aspergers and become a spokesperson to help others learn, too.  Abby is what she is and I love that she embraces her uniqueness! As grandparents, we should do the same and accept our “aspies” for the beautiful children that they are! Let them know that you are proud of them and welcome the special qualities they bring to your life! We can learn so much from them!

Need some help?

Are you a grandparent with concerns about your grandchild, or you’d just like to tell Jean about your own aspie?  Or maybe you’re a teacher looking for advice?  Be sure to comment below!  She wants to hear from you!  You can also contact her, privately, through our web contact form.

Also, for early intervention information, and a directory of state contact info, please the visit the folks at:

Early Intervention Support