Planning for the care of your children in the event of your death is an unpleasant task that can become much more complex when you have a child with special needs. You will need to be specific about how you want things to be carried out to ensure your child continues to receive consistent care. While this can be challenging for any parent, knowing your child will be cared for after you are gone can help you rest easier.
Preparing a Child with Autism for a Parent's Death
Having a plan for the future is important for your autistic child. Tasks to complete are:
- Create a Will that details how your want your estate and belongings carried out.
- Take out a life insurance policy that will cover funeral expenses and money to provide for your child's basic needs.
- Have a developmental assessment for your child periodically to see what level of care will be necessary after you are gone. Many children grow to become independent adults who simply need someone to check in on them, while others could require continuous care.
- Research facilities to find one that you like, and find out if the organization will add your child to a waiting list. Add your intent to use this facility in your Last Will and Testament.
- Prepare your child to deal with death. Terminally ill parents can include preparing for a loss of a loved one in their child's treatment plan.
Care and Independence
Ensuring your child is well cared for is the ultimate goal. Think about the following:
- Establish custody or guardianship.
- Involve the future guardian in your child's treatment plan. The guardian should be an active member of your child's treatment team.
- Help your child learn as many self-help and daily living skills as possible.
Your Child's Feelings
Adjusting to the loss of a loved one is painful and changes in routine can make grief worse. The following tips can help your child understand death and mortality:
- Encourage your child to share beliefs and feelings about death.
- Have your religious advisor offer ideas for teaching your child about your beliefs about the afterlife.
- A bereavement book can help preserve the memory of a loved one who has passed on, but you can create a book that outlines changes your child can expect after your departure.
The Grieving Process
Grieving is a process that differs from one individual to another. A child with autism may appear unaffected by the loss of a parent, but behaviors may surface later, especially during the holidays or special occasions. Ways that you can help your child prepare for loss include:
- Avoid using metaphors and figurative language. Comparing death to sleep, for instance, may make your child afraid to go to sleep.
- Use charts or calendars to outline appointments, lengthy stays in the hospital or other important developments you anticipate.
- Use the same charts or calendars to outline daily activities that won't change after you pass away.
- Use visual aids that map out the cycle of life.
Grief is a very personal experience, and children on the spectrum have a wide range of responses to loss. A child with autism may focus on dates, "Mom died on January 4th. It was a Monday." Though not seemingly emotional, the statements indicate that the loss has had an effect on him. You can cater your approach to your child's developmental level and interests, which can help make the process of preparing for the loss of a parent easier.