Autism and Trauma: Helping a Child With Autism Understand the Shooting in Connecticut
The President of the United States did perhaps the most difficult task of any presidency today, and provided remarks regarding the murder of 18 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The President was perhaps the most presidential in his remarks, the most human in his grief, that I have ever seen. His comments were right, in that every parent is, or should be, devastated by the traumatic events today.
My wife texted me a message to let me know she was grateful that we no longer watch the news with the kids regularly. Today, it would have been devastating to them, seeing children their own age in distress. While I become enraged and tearful about it, our children, both of whom have autism, would regress at the display of so much trauma.
Children with autism feel grief, pain, loss, and fear just like all other children. And even just by watching traumatic news or events in movies, they can react. Even worse are those children who experience such trauma. And given the statistical likelihood, there were at least a couple children with autism at that elementary school.
As a parent, I want to protect my children from all harm, real or imagined. But when something traumatic does happen in their lives, it's an opportunity to help them deal with their grief and loss, just as you would any other child.
Gray Miller has a post on Love to Know Autism that talks about it called Being Autistic and Dealing with Death. The article is brilliant, talking about ways to help your child understand what the loss means, and looking for signs of grief that may or may not be apparent.
Unfortunately tragedy cannot be avoided, and happens too often in the world in which we live. But we can do our best to help our children with autism understand what has happened, what it means, and how to deal with their emotions in a constructive way. Just as with anything else in their lives, it will take a strong support system to help them work through it.
The tragedy in Connecticut is truly heartbreaking. My prayers are out there for all the students and parents, teachers, family, and friends of those who were lost. And I have a special little prayer for those who have autism as they try to heal from this horrible, terrible act.