I Have a Question about Death was written in order to provide clear and concrete language to a challenging topic, which is often addressed through metaphors and euphemisms that are out of reach for many children with special needs – and any child who thinks in more concrete ways. As important as the text, however, are the illustrations that were selected for the book and how those illustrations are used throughout the story.
This book utilizes Symbol Stix*, a modern, web-based system that boasts the “most complete and current symbol set available anywhere.” In using these images, we have left little to the imagination; children can easily picture themselves in the story, and can see themselves as they process the news that someone they love has died. With a “short picture story” in addition to the full text, the book draws on key elements of a Social Story, a concept brought to life by Carol Gray.
Visuals, in general, are great tools often used by special educators, therapists and anyone working with (or parenting!) a child with special learning needs. Sometimes children need less talking “at them” and more concrete ways to wrap their mind around a particular concept. Many children with special needs are highly visual and are better able to process information when they can see it. A short picture story can really tap into that strength, thereby better supporting the child and his/her needs.
Picture stories can be “homemade” and do not need to be anything fancy. A short illustrated story can be used for whatever your child happens to be working on, or anything for which you would like to prepare your child. Examples include:
The morning routine
Washing hands/brushing teeth/personal hygiene
Expected behavior (i.e. at a church or synagogue)
Strategies for responding to stimuli
Eating lunch at school
Processing a major event (like the death of a loved one or the birth of a sibling)
The more you can use actual pictures of your child doing these things, the better. Often, because children like to read books over and over, these stories become somewhat of a “mantra” that they memorize and can call upon when faced with the situation in question. Print those smart-phone photos and add some simple text, and you have a short picture story that your child will love!