All parents dread the day they have to explain death to their kids. Grief and loss are difficult for anyone to experience, much less young children. Parents of kids with autism may be even more worried about how to help them cope. Although this conversation will never be easy, there are things you can do to help prepare your child. How do you tell an autistic child about death?
People on the autism spectrum often have a hard time grasping abstract concepts, so it’s important to be as clear as possible.
Here are some tips:
Don’t use euphemisms
Expressions like “he went to sleep,” “he passed away,” “he went to Heaven,” and “we lost him” can be confusing to a child with autism. Most autistic people tend to interpret language literally, so your child might wonder why he/she can’t visit Heaven, become scared of going to sleep, or just not understand what’s happened.
Explain what death is
Depending on how old your son or daughter is, he/she might not have any concept of death. Use simple, honest words when talking about it. Tell him/her that death is the end of life, and it happens to all living things. Make it clear that death is permanent, but that you’ll always have the memories of that person. You could use examples from nature or fictional media to make it concrete. Explain how the person died
An (age-appropriate) explanation of what causes death is essential to your child’s understanding. You might say that the person was old enough to die, that he/she became very sick, or he/she got hurt very badly and the doctors couldn’t help.
Just be sure to differentiate between a typical illness or injury and a life-threatening one. A child might be scared if he/she thinks that a cold or scraped knee is enough to cause death.
Be open to questions
Your kid with autism might have a lot of questions, like whether he/she will die, whether you will die, and what happens to someone when he/she dies. Many children ask the same questions over and over while processing information, so be patient. Be honest in your responses and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re unsure about something.
Both autistic and neurotypical children may not understand the concept right away, so think of learning about loss as a process rather than a singular moment. It could take weeks or months for your child to fully understand what’s happened. Prepare your child if you know the death is coming
Some deaths are sudden, but other times, a friend or relative has been sick for a while. Don’t wait until he/she has passed away to talk to your child. For one thing, your […]