The importance of supporting children and young people with SEND through their grief

Read how you can support a child or young person with SEND through their grief.

Supporting a child or young person with SEND through grief requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to their unique needs. 

Our services support SEND siblings with 1-1 counselling sessions to meet their needs as well as providing grief resources through Bodie’s Treasured Memory Bag. 

By creating an environment that acknowledges their challenges and provides tailored support, we can help these children navigate the grieving process with resilience and comfort. Remember, each child is different, so it’s essential to observe and listen to their cues, adjusting strategies as needed.

Nick Hodges, co-founder of the Bodie Hodges Foundation, works full time as a teacher within a special school.  When asked why it is so important to support children and young people with SEND following the death of a loved one, he said…

There is a misconception that children with SEND or profound and multiple learning difficulties don’t really understand bereavement and grief.  This can be very damaging to their grief as they still feel the sense of loss.

Some of the challenges that parents, caregivers, and communities face when supporting children and young people with SEND through their grief include:

Communication Challenges: Many children with SEND may have difficulty expressing their feelings verbally. This can make it hard for them to articulate their emotions or ask for help with understanding what has happened.

Sensory Sensitivities: Children with sensory sensitivities may be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and physical sensations associated with grief, such as loud noises, new people, and visiting new places.

Routine Disruptions: Children with SEND often thrive on routine and predictability. Grief disrupts these patterns, causing additional stress and confusion.

A mum and son sharing an affectionate moment in sunlight.

Here are some tips for parents, caregivers, and communities when supporting children and young people with SEND during their grief:

Use Simple Language: When discussing loss, use clear and simple language that matches the child’s developmental level. Avoid euphemisms that might confuse them. For example, use the word ‘died’ rather than ‘passed away.’

Visual Aids: Visual supports such as drawings, social stories, or picture books can help children understand abstract concepts like death.

Encourage Expression: Provide various avenues for expression, such as drawing, writing, or using assistive communication devices. Respect their way of communicating, whether it’s through words or actions.

Create a Safe Space: Establish a quiet, calming space where the child can retreat if they feel overwhelmed.

Stick to Routines: While some disruptions are inevitable, try to maintain as much consistency as possible in daily routines. This provides a sense of stability during a tumultuous time.

Sensory-Friendly Environments: When attending events like funerals or memorials, prepare the child for sensory stimuli and provide accommodations such as noise-cancelling headphones or a sensory toolkit.

Physical Comfort: Offer comfort items such as a favourite toy, blanket, or clothing item that provides sensory input they find calming.

Allow Breaks: If the child becomes overwhelmed, give them the option to take breaks in a quiet, familiar space

In summary, children and young people with special educational needs will feel grief just like all other children and young people. However, they might not have the tools to be able to understand what grief is, why they are feeling these emotions, and how to cope with it.

Therefore, as parents, caregivers, and anyone in periphery of the lives of these children and young people, it is essential to put the right support in place and continue to support them in their grief for as long as is needed.

This will look different for every single person with SEND, so tailoring the support to each individual is vital.

The Bodie Hodges Foundation proudly extends its support to children and young people across the UK following the death of a sibling by sending out Treasured Memory Bags upon referral through our website.

We have worked with Sarah Helton, Backpocket Teacher to develop a Sensory story that explains death for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Importantly, there is no age restriction on these bags.

If you are aware of someone with SEND who has experienced the death of a sibling, please click the button below to make a referral for a bag. 

Bodie's Treasured Memory Bag

We believe that all children should be supported as they grieve and so this bag also includes a bereavement and loss Widgit that can be personalised for each family, emotion image cards and sensory props to understand grief in a simple and accessible way.


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