Explaining death to child with autism

Recently, my non-verbal 11 year old daughter lost her grandfather. She was very attached to him and we were really unsure how to deal with the situation. We took the approach that, although we don’t know what she will understand, we will tell her what happened and be honest with her. She attended the visitation and saw his body in the casket. She was very interested in him, but quickly moved on to other things and wanted to play with her iPad. In short, I have no clue what she understood or how it impacted her. She has been to his house since his passing and I don’t know if she really gets it. I know she was totally crazy over him, but it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact. It bothers me that it doesn’t seem to bother her more than it bothers her. Is that how she will be when one of her parents is gone? Will she keep on trucking like nothing happened? We continue to operate on the premise in there somewhere, she gets it some. After all, there have been many other things that I had assumed she “didn’t get” and I turned out to be wrong. This is one of those things that I guess I will file under “I have no frickin’ clue.”

2 Responses to “Explaining death to child with autism”

  1. What pass over in silence is hard to say anything for sure about, and it does not need to imply that she is not concerned about it.

    I remember when my grandfather died 16 years ago that I did not show much of affection, something my peers remarked. I was affected, and I still think of him every week, but my way of meeting death is very different from others and the expected reactions to death may be absent in me.

    It is hard to tell anything about a girl I do not know, and is it hard to say what your kid’s reaction to the death is, but I believe for sure that she is affected by it and has her own way of meeting the death.

  2. My husband just passed and we have a 5 yr old on the spectrum who has only just become verbal. He seems very intelligent but we also have no idea how much he understands of the loss. There is daily talk about his poppy, he says he misses him, he says he sees & plays with him. When my husband first passed in Nov. 2012 we had some very rough days at school. My son was demonstrating aggressive behaviors saying things like he was sad & wanted other people to be sad too. He would inquire when poppy was coming home from work or the dr. Although I told him what I could about the passing, I honestly doubt he gets it. But in all honesty, I have a friend with a typically developing child who also lost her grandpa. Much of how my son responds is quite similar to how she responds (she is also 5). My only suggestion is if you have access to someone who can make visuals, have them make you a book….we have one called Poppy is in Heaven. It was simplistic but told what I tried to tell him had happened. The book really seemed to help. Also making a memory book and or a special place for your child to be able to go & share her feelings. Our school did say if my son didn’t respond with negative feelings they would be more concerned. Does your daughter have other means of communication such as typing, writing, or alternate voice devices which enable her to express herself?

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