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Webinar: Grief and Neurodiversity

Presenter: Dr. Jill A. Harrington and Dr Rebecca Morse

Recorded: 14 September 2023

Webinar Overview: Grief and Neurodiversity

Research in thanatology has made strident progress into the realm of bereavement, with significant work incorporating vulnerable populations, such as children and adolescents, with an increasing push to incorporate cultural humility in both education, and practice. Despite this, the community of those who are considered to be neurodivergent comprise an under recognised majority, and sometimes (although not always) these individuals endure a uniquely disenfranchised grief experience, particularly when the individual has specific behaviours which complicate transitions or daily life tasks. Individuals with neurodivergence may not receive the validation and support they need to adequately process their grief. In addition to having a socially unrecognized, or under-recognized loss, there are frequently overlapping secondary losses due to the death that can be overwhelming to the individual. For the individual with neurodivergence, they may be uniquely attached to the individuals on whom they rely for structure and stability, as well as social and behavioural cues. It is important to recognize the special considerations for our clients (individual, and family), when the individual does not have the expressive language adequate to communicate their grief, and subsequently compensates with maladaptive, or even injurious, behaviours. This presentation is intended to briefly expose audience members to this topic from a behavioural psychology perspective via real-life cases, and offer suggestions for helping these individuals adjust to a new assumptive post-loss world.

Those who will benefit from attending this webinar are professionals working with neurodivergent populations & support professionals working with neurodivergent clients with recent or previously unresolved grief.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this webinar, participants should be able to:

  • Describe and define features of neurodivergence.
  • Consider the implications of neurodivergence in grief and loss.
  • Explore the pre-existing non-death losses for those who are neurodivergent
  • Evaluate the intersectionality of neurodivergence and grief

Presenter Bio: Dr. Jill A. Harrington DSW, LCSW

Dr Harrington is an Adjunct Associate Professor for The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington DC Campus (TCSPP-DC) who maintains an active clinical counselling practice. She earned her Doctorate in Social Work from The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, has been in practice for over twenty three years, and is one of the first published authors on the subject of bereavement in U.S. military families. She is an active member of The National Association of Social Workers, The American Association of Suicidology and the Association for Death Education & Counseling, where she is also a former Board Member and current Committee Chair. Dr. Harrington also serves on the Autism & Grief Advisory Board for the Hospice Foundation of America. As well as being a clinical social worker, she is also an advocate and parent of an Adult Son with Autism. In her career, Dr. Harrington has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, created and co-edited a novel textbook on the use of modern superhero narratives in teaching thanatology and was recently recognised as TCSPP-DC Adjunct Professor of the Year.

Presenter Bio: Dr.Rebecca Morse PhD

Dr Morse is the Director of Research Training (DRT) and was chair of the Institutional Review Board (2016-2023) at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University. One of her greatest joys is working with students to cultivate their enthusiasm for research and helping them to apply complex concepts in their own research and early career development. Her dedication to her students has led to her being recognized by George Mason University for Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor, Outstanding Adjunct Faculty in Psychology, and numerous letters of commendation. Previously at Marian University, Dr. Morse has received three awards: the Bronze Medal for dedication in teaching, the Silver Medal for dedication in teaching, and an award for Adult and Online Studies Adjunct of the Year. She was also awarded 2022 Educator of the Year by Dr. World Productions, and served as Dr. Virginia America 2022, and is currently serving as Dr. Virginia USA 2023.

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