Teaching your child with Autism about death.

How do you teach a child with Autism about death?  Unfortunately, death is a reality people face daily, but our ASD kiddos can really struggle with understanding what death is and processing their feelings. Learn what what worked for us!
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Death has been a hot topic here lately...


Unfortunately, death is a reality people face daily, but our ASD kiddos can really struggle with understanding what death is and processing their feelings.  My son is concerned about upcoming deployment for my husband, and has been matching what information he knows with CNN & the maps in his bible.  Looks like we are going to be talking about it quite a bit more to prepare him for the "just in case - hope they never happen" scenarios. It's also come up in Special Needs Moms Network a few times recently, and although I've shared my free social story about funerals there, it made me realize I should also share what taught my son about death.

How can I explain death to a barely verbal child?


When my son was younger, he was non-verbal.  As we progressed in Early Intervention and SPED pre-k, he began speaking more, but it was mostly echolailia.  He used to be an runner, big time.  His favorite thing to do?  Running straight into the street, without looking of course!  

I used to tell him, "Don't run into the street, you could die!"  Using the word "owie" didn't matter to him, so I started using that word "die" to get my seriousness across.  I realized then, he had no idea what that meant.  I was at a loss of how to teach him. 

Using nature and natural learning to accomplish the task


I think that too often, we are focusing on too many spinning plates and miss the usefulness of everyday learning opportunities.  When we lived in Hawai'i, we found a frog in our garage that had freshly died.  It looked like there wasn't a thing wrong with him!  I decided this was a perfect chance to teach the concept of death to my son, who was thrilled to have a new pet frog.... 😏

I told him he was dead, and we poked it around a bit.  I told him, "No hopping.  He is dead!"  He echoed it back to me, and we went inside.  For the next month, we repeated that daily routine.  He observed the frog decaying more and more.  It never hopped, it never moved, it just stayed put.  You could slowly see my son's expressions changing as he would echo, "No hopping.  He is dead!"  When I was pretty sure he got it, I threw the frog in the garbage can while he watched.  I told him, "The frog was dead, time for the garbage can."  I followed up with, "When people die, they don't need their body either.  We bury them in the ground."  Looking back, I probably should have buried the frog as well! 😁  I explained more about what we, as Christians, believe about life after death.

The dead frog example helped my visual, hands on, literal learner to grasp the concept, and he was much quicker to put an end to his running into the street!  Hoping this helps you to find something in your own world to take advantage of when teaching this concept!

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