“It is difficult to predict anyones[sic] reaction to the death of someone close to them, and individuals on the autism spectrum will be no different. Each person’s reaction will be unique to them. You may not recognise the person with ASD’s displays of grief, but any difference in their behaviour may be an expression of their confusion and loss. Howlin (2004) describes how the “person with autism may seem apparently unconcerned, even by the death of someone very close,… [they may focus on] seemingly callous issues, such as how much they may have been left in the will.” She then outlines one particular adult’s reaction to her fathers death, describing how she “began to embark on bizarre monologues about punishment and pain, murder and the police”, (Howlin 2004) though her father’s death had not involved the police in any way. These behavioural changes may not coincide with the death of a relative or friend, but may occur perhaps three months, six months, or a year afterwards. This will need to be recognised so these behaviours are appropriately understood and supported. (See information on behaviour: http://www.autism.org.uk/behaviour ). You may notice a reoccurrence of these or other behaviours at significant dates after the persons death; for example, at an anniversary, Christmas or birthdays.
There are recognised approximate stages of bereavement (Allison 2001):
Shock, numbness, denial
Despair, turmoil and acute grieving, including:
– anxiety, fear, panic
– pain, appetite disturbance, breathlessness, illness
– more than usual need for sleep, sleeplessness, hyperactivity
– regression, loss of skills
– resolution of grief
– when the bereaved can think of the deceased without pain or anger and can recall the times they had together in a positive way.
Please be aware of these stages: they may merge together, and not everyone will experience all of them.”
Death, bereavement and autism spectrum disorders – | autism | Asperger syndrome |