Emotions of children on the autism spectrum can be created suddenly in a quite short notice. Often, they fail to recognize the emotion or to establish a connection between the emotion and its expression. While showing children how to identify an emotion, it is also of vital importance to show them how to connect it with a specific event. This facilitates the process.
Fours steps to identify emotions:
By using this approach the steps mentioned below are followed:
1st step: Identification and designation of the emotion.
2nd step: Connection of the emotion with the event that created it in the first place.
3rd step:Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion.
4th step:Reassurance and support of the child through the emotion.
The skills of emotional identification can be developed by playing simple games such as “Guess the emotion”, “Pantomime” and “The mirror game” where you and the child have to guess in turns the emotion indicated by the other. You can also find a variety of board and card games related to the identification and the expression of the emotions in the market.
As soon as the children are able to identify/recognize accurately the emotions, they will be able to express what other people “think” and “do”. Later on, they will be able to connect their emotions to “thoughts” and “actions”.
Children’s empathy in the transition period from early childhood to preschool age
The changes (Denham, 1998) that take place in children’s empathy in the transition period from early childhood to preschool age are the following:
The social skills to identify, understand and react to others’ emotion are crucial. They play a key role in understanding and establishing relationships with others.
Some children might find it difficult to identify and understand emotions. They might face difficulties in noticing/understanding crucial non-verbal signals (such as the shape of one’s eyebrows, body movements or the voice accent and rhythm) which are used to indicate the difference between various emotions. In cases when the children are incapable of identifying and understanding accurately others' emotions, they might misbehave while the interaction process takes place. Emotions must be taught explicitly and in the clearest way possible.
From the age of four to the age of six, most children are able to identify and understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear. The more complex emotions (such as pride, guilt, and shame) are based on the main ones. A deep understanding of the main emotions must precede the introduction of the more complex ones.
1. Attention approach
Some children must be taught to pay attention to facial expressions and derive social information. Find as many opportunities as possible to practice identification, designation, and reaction to the child’s emotions, as well as to others’ emotions. Some examples are presented below:
2. Naming the emotions
As soon as the child starts paying attention to facial expressions, teach him/her the names of the emotions starting from the main ones: joy, sadness, anger, and fear.
3. Designating emotions
As soon as the child is able to identify the four main emotions, he/she should try to designate them.
4. Actions based on emotions
It is now time for the child to act based on emotions.
Depending on the abilities of the child, you could try “role-playing”, during which some emotions are identified. For instance, you could pretend that you are quite happy because you have bought an ice cream.
6. Modeling (filming)
Many children enjoy watching television. This can be used in the process of learning the emotions.
If the child enjoys playing board games, make the most out of it in order to practice everything he/she has already been taught about emotions.
Reading books is another successful way to help the child learn about others’ emotions in various situations. Look for books which have the same characters as the ones the child enjoys watching in films and turn learning into a fun activity.
The digital resource “Identification, Expression & Regulation of Emotions / ADVANCED LEVEL” is a complete guide to identifying, expressing and regulating 40 secondary emotions through an integrated methodology of three levels.
Music therapy has often been linked to positive outcomes and progress in skill development for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
One of the reasons that music has quickly become a tool used in autism therapy is that it can stimulate both hemispheres of our brain, rather than just one.