Teaching emotions to an autistic child
Teaching emotions to an autistic child may be a hard task because he or she has problems understanding facial expressions and body language.
My son, John finds it hard to control his emotions and also has difficulty interpreting emotions.
The ability to understand emotions starts to develop from birth. Around two months, most babies will laugh and show signs of fear. At 12 months, they can read your face to understand how you feel and even use words to express feelings.
John’s development seems normal when he was 2 months old. He learned how to smile at 2 months but began to manifest problems expressing his emotions by the age of 3. He has severe temper tantrums and always hits his head on the floor whenever he gets frustrated. He did not know at that time how to express his wishes. I find it indescribably painful to see him like this and felt that his behavior is different compared to other children of his age. I felt the need for him to be seen by a doctor and have him diagnosed.
When he was diagnosed at the age of 5, John’s teacher in primary school together with his speech and language therapist provided me with strategies on how he could improve his behavior through teaching him emotions.
The following are the strategies that I utilized to my son:
- Label my own facial expressions by letting him see and telling him what it means. Example: I smile when I am happy. I cry when I am sad. I frown when I am angry.
- Respond to his emotions by acknowledging it. Example: “You are flapping your hands (hand gestures), you must be happy and excited.”
- Play up with my own emotional responses. Example: “I am so happy! Give me a hug.”
- Call his attention by encouraging him to play with me. Example: “Come on, John! Let us play ‘peek-a-boo’.”
Note: You must exaggerate your feelings by demonstrating what a ‘peek-a-boo’ means by utilizing hand gestures.
- Encourage eye contact by joining in whatever his doing. If he asks for something, I wait until he looks at me and then give him what he wants. I need to exaggerate my expression to get his attention.
- Ask someone to tell my son what I said to draw his attention to that person. This will encourage him to use his eye contact which will help him towards learning people’s emotions through facial expressions. I will explain further how to encourage eye contact on my next post.
A child with autism tends to have problems understanding people’s emotions because of the way he or she perceive people’s faces.
John focuses his attention more on my mouth than my eyes whenever I am talking to him. This means that the information he is getting from me does not impact him on how I feel.
Utilizing the strategies on teaching emotions helped my son to develop his emotions. I also found these important tools that might aid your child to develop his emotions.
from: National Autism Resources Corp
The emotion cards together with teaching social stories to your child will aid your child’s emotional development thus improving his behavior. This was proven effective to my son, John. If you want to learn about social stories, please click on this link.
I sincerely hope these insights have helped in some way and welcome your questions should there be any.