Chapter 6: Students with intellectual disabilities

How children with intellectual disabilities experience and express grief

student“It really was heart breaking. She kept asking me, ‘Why did my daddy get sick?’ I would do my best to answer her honestly with the same language her mom was using, but she kept asking me consistently”. – Teacher



Even if a student has a limited understanding of the concept of death, they will still experience grief. Your student will express their grief through feelings, thoughts, and behaviours, just as other students will do. For example, they may feel sad, frightened, or angry. They may ask, “Why did the person leave”? They may cry or be irritable. 

However, they may not communicate all aspects of their grief verbally. Their expressions of grief may be misinterpreted as ‘inappropriate behaviour’ rather than acknowledged as a grief response related to a death or loss, especially if they show signs of their grief at a later time than you might typically expect.