When Students Grieve: Teachers of Students With Intellectual Disabilities
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The identification and provision of support for the emotional needs of children with intellectual disabilities is essential as these students are often “disenfranchised grievers”-- meaning their grief is not recognized by others. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of teachers who have had elementary students with intellectual disabilities who have lost a parent or guardian. Additionally, this study documented behavioral changes and grief symptoms noted by teachers in their students, as well as how teachers responded to these perceived expressions of grief. Five teachers participated in two interviews designed to elicit information on their experience with grieving students. Constructivist grounded theory methods were used to analyze the data. Findings indicated that students were deeply impacted by the death of their parent or guardian. They displayed a range of grieving symptoms such as crying and aggression. Teachers overwhelmingly supported their grieving students despite being emotionally impacted themselves. They responded in ways suggested by grief and educational professionals such as when they provided concrete and simple explanations to assist with student understanding of death. Teachers expressed concern about the surviving caregivers’ own grief and the subsequent impact on their students. Teachers also highlighted the need for more grieving resources.
McAdams-Ducy, Elizabeth (2014). When Students Grieve: Teachers of Students With Intellectual Disabilities. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from