We are heartbroken and enraged over the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel. We grieve with the global Jewish community during this challenging time and pray for the return of those kidnapped and missing. Matan is inextricably connected to Israel and stands in solidarity.
It is difficult for anyone at any age to comprehend the tragic events that have unfolded in our Jewish homeland. It is all the more complex to help children and individuals with cognitive or developmental disabilities grapple with such events. Below, Meredith Polsky, Matan’s Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships and Arlen Gaines, co-authors of the I Have a Question book series, share suggestions to consider:
- Remember that each individual’s own developmental path will have a great impact on how they process, experience and understand challenging topics.
- It can often be scarier and more anxiety-provoking for a child or individual with a disability to sense the stress of people around them, but not be told explicitly about what is going on. Use honest, clear language, parceling out information as individuals are able to process it. Since many children and individuals with cognitive or developmental disabilities are concrete thinkers, the use of simple, clear phrases can be helpful.
- Amidst personal crisis or times of elevated stress of those around them, individuals with disabilities may exhibit: increased sensory-seeking behaviors; appear irritable, confused, fearful, sad, insecure; regress; play out scenes of death, illness, violence; repeat questions; act as if nothing has happened.
- Additional challenges can arise due to:
- concrete thinking affecting an individual’s ability to understand challenging topics
- belief systems that cannot be seen
- varied abilities in reading emotions and social cues
- sensory integration considerations
- non-verbal communication
- General strategies to consider when addressing difficult topics:
- Use concrete language
- Prepare for next steps and navigate plans (particularly if the current situation has a direct impact on your family structure, i.e. one parent/caregiver will be absent)
- Utilize visual schedules and short picture stories
- Provide guidance around range of emotion
- Recognize sensory concern
- Maintain structure and routine
- Be mindful of exposure to news and social media, which can give the impression that new traumatic events are happening all day every day
Child Mind Institute Trauma Resources
Talking to your Children about Israel in a Time of Crisis, The Jewish Education Project
We continue to pray for family, friends, and the security of Israel. Am Yisrael Chai.