Teaching Emotions

Teaching emotions to an autistic child

Teaching emotions to an autistic child may be a hard task because he or she has teaching emotionsproblems 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. teaching emotionsExample: 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.

Facial Perception

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.

Affiliate Disclaimer:

Language Builder Photo Emotion Cards – $34.99

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.

Adel 🙂

6 thoughts on “Teaching Emotions

  1. Hi Adel, thank you for sharing both the information and your personal experience here. Over the past oh decade or 2 more attention has been paid to autism, the signs, the symptoms, etc. It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t know what autism was and when a child acted out he or she was just out of control, or we thought. I wonder though when you first started to notice John’s behavior did you respond right away or did a bit of time pass before you sought assistance? I ask because our daughter has lupus. Truthfully, we responded to it in time but for the first several weeks we noted changes but we didn’t react the way we should have until there was something that was that obvious that something was awry.

    1. Hi, Greer. Thank you for your question. Although I notice some changes on John’s behaviour when he was still a toddler, I did not seek medical assistance not until he turned the age of 5. This is when I noticed that his behaviour become more erratic and his teacher noticed this as well. This is when she referred me to a special educational need teacher who would help John in seeking the appropriate help as well as getting a final diagnosis or assessment. When he had the assessment, I then started teaching him different emotions.

  2. You have a very nice site.
    I applaud you for everything you do as far as always helping your son to better understand things, too many times do children who have autism get set aside.
    keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It’s true that many children with autism feel displace in today’s society. They need our love, support and understanding.

  3. John has improved a lot and continually maturing. Credits given to his parents who have nurtured and supported him althroughout.

    1. Thank you, Sharon, for your kind words. John’s progress is a concerted effort between us, his parents, his teachers, and therapists and also with the warm love and support of all of you, my friends.

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