Chapter 6: Students with intellectual disabilities

Talking about death, dying, and grief

What the educator says
Shane Dilka, resource/learning support teacher, talks about supporting students with special needs when a peer is dying.(3:22)
Shane Dilka, resource/learning support teacher, talks about the importance of open communication.(3:22)
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about their approach to communicating with a grieving family. (3:22)Video transcript

“I did my best to support Jon. We talked a little but the crafts we did also really helped him. I think it was a good use of our one on one time”. - Teacher


Students with an intellectual disability have the same need and right as your other students to know about death, dying, and grief. Although using ‘teachable moments’ to model talking about these topics is an important and useful tool for all students, it is an even more essential tool for students with intellectual disabilities.  

Key points you can include

Roll your mouse over each box to view a different point.

View Point #1




When someone dies their body stops working.


View Point #2




Everything that is alive will die.


View Point #3




A person who dies will not come back; but we continue to have memories and feelings about them.


View Point #4




Some questions have no easy answers.



Effective communication requires that you have a level of comfort, both with the topics of death, dying, and grief, and with the student’s intellectual disability. If you recognize that you don’t have this, reach out to someone who is more comfortable to help you support the student.