Beauty and Cruelty: Sharing Bad News with the Special Needs Child

Jane Scott by Jane Scott Additional Needs

Jane Scott

Jane Scott

Mum of 3. Reluctant special needs specialist. Champion procrastinator. Need an opinion? Happy to oblige.

Now living on the edge of the Peak District it is our nearest city. We visit often.

London was the backdrop to my teenage adventures. Manchester is my teen’s playground.

Affleck’s Palace and China Town, The Galleries and the Northern Quarter. Gigs held in a variety of venues, big and small, make the short train journey frequent and worthwhile.

Then the unthinkable happened. May 22nd - a terrible day.

Children the same age as mine, went to a gig in Manchester and did not come home. Others saw things that time will not erase from the memory.

We all felt the fear. We’ve talked, we’ve hugged, we’ve raged.

The news is full of stories, with Psychologist input, about how to talk to your children about this dark event.

What if your young person has a learning difficulty?

Pearl, my youngest, is 10, she is non-verbal and uses a communication book to make her needs known. She has Learning Difficulties.

Pearl’s understanding is pretty good, but because she can’t speak it’s hard to know quite at what level she takes things in. Her ability to pick up on moods, however, is superhoned.

Replacing the news with Go Jetters on Tuesday morning was pretty easy, but we were all talking about the bombing, as was her taxi driver who has the local radio on.

How much could Pearl understand?

What should I do? I think of Pearl’s life. She is cocooned from worry.

Attending a Special School she always has an adult near at hand. She always will.

Pearl does not know that bad people exist. When friends or family have died I do not know how much she comprehends.

So how do I explain something so utterly beyond my comprehension, as this attack, to my beautiful girl? Should I even try?

My girl understands kindness and unkindness. She knows love, but seems unaware of hate.

I want to keep her enfolded in this world of peace, but I want her to be prepared for what life may bring.

I do not want her to half understand, be confused, worried or fearful.

So I tell her.

“Something very horrible happened in Manchester. A bad man has made a bomb and killed people. It is very sad and dreadful. We are all very sad.

Lots of people have been kind and cared for and helped each other”

And I leave it there.

Does she understand? I’m not sure.

Do I? I don’t want to, I do not want it to be true.

I hope she feels safe and learns that the world is full of beauty and love and that with support pain can be endured, love wins over hate.

I hope we all know that.


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