Visit » Calendar » Virtual Event: Grandparenting a Child with Autism: Roles, Responsibilities, and Supports

Thursday, March 18, 2021 -
7:00pm to 8:30pm
Speaker: Charlie Washburn, Retired Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, VSA Massachusetts, grandfather of two boys on the autism spectrum, Donna Danielewski, Senior Director of the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH, mother of a child with autism
Presented virtually via Zoom webinar
Free with pre-registration; $5 suggested donation appreciated

This event took place on March 18, 2021. The event recording can be found here.

This workshop will explore the lush landscape of grandparenting children on the Autism Spectrum. We’ll explore the unique role grandparents—and others who fill that sort of supporting role—can play in a family with a child on the spectrum. We will share some of the unique joys and puzzling challenges that come with the job. We’ll discuss the grandparent’s chief responsibilities, special opportunities, and some ready resources to help out, including children’s museums like the Discovery Museum. We will also specifically address issues raised by participants in a pre-workshop survey (look for the link in your registration acknowledgement email).

The presenters are Donna Danielewski and Charles Washburn.  They are colleagues with years of experience working together with Cultural Access New England, a group formed to support museum and other cultural organization professionals working to make their programs more inclusive of people with the full range of human abilities and disabilities. They come to this conversation as a parent and grandparent with children on the spectrum.

As National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)’s Senior Director, Donna develops and maintains collaborative relationships with corporate and public-sector partners, identifying challenges and accessibility solutions for a wide range of products and services across various operating systems and platforms. Donna and her team work closely with standards groups, global industry leaders and technology firms, content creators and providers, as well as academic institutions, cultural organizations, federal and state agencies, retail and for-profit businesses, and others who have formed partnerships with NCAM to further their goals of providing more accessible products and services for their customers. After more than a decade in operations management at a large research firm, Donna came to NCAM in 2008—following deeply personal family experience with hearing loss—to build NCAM’s consulting business. 

As the youngest child in a large and opinionated family and the parent of three teenagers (one of whom is autistic), Donna has significant experience with family relationships around disability. She is happy to share all of it—some of it good, some bad, some tear-inducingly frustrating, and the bulk of it life-alteringly beautiful.

Charles Washburn retired three years ago as a Vice President of Seven Hills Foundation and Chief Operating Officer of VSA Massachusetts, now known as Open Door Arts (ODA). ODA supports inclusion of people of all abilities in the arts and culture and in schools through Universal Design for learning. Under Charlie’s direction ODA created the COOL Schools Program which trains artists to help teachers use arts learning to improve instruction and learning of children with and without disabilities together and engages them with teachers working with diverse learners. ODA has provided training for numerous schools and cultural organizations developing programs to meet the needs of a wide range of people with disabilities, including Autism and other developmental disabilities.

Charlie has 7 grandchildren. Two of his grandsons are on the Autism Spectrum. Charlie will share what he’s learned on this journey with his son and daughter and their families, as well as some insights gained from his career.


This event is made possible by Foundation for MetroWest.