Beautiful Minds Blog
Often times children who have been diagnosed with autism struggle to understand other people’s feelings and manage their own emotions. This lack of intuition can have a negative impact on their friendships, adult interactions, and their behavior throughout the day.
Some ways that will help you teach your child on the spectrum about facial expressions and emotions are through the use of flashcards, role play, the use of a mirror, and fun creative games that will grab their attention so that they can learn the differences between happy, sad, mad, etc.
The first step to helping your child on the spectrum understand how facial expressions portray actual emotions is to educate them on what facial expressions correlate with which emotions. You can do this by creating or purchasing flashcards, pointing out expressions in books, on TV or in the community.
Flashcards- these will help teach your child what facial expressions look like and what emotions go with each picture.
Images in books and on TV- this is a great way to practice what your child has already learned in the flashcards.
People in the community – by pointing out facial expressions on actual people you are able to discuss what they might be feeing and how it is affecting them. You can point out more than what their facial expression looks like, you can talk about their posture, their eye contact etc.; and how their overall body language is effected by how they are feeling.
Once your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, learns facial expressions and the body language that goes along with each emotion, you can start role playing situations. Role playing can lead to specific emotions and how people will react in specific situations. It is a fun way to practice identifying feelings, and can be group activity or a one on one game.
You can also make a game of identifying feelings by having your child on the spectrum practice facial expressions in a mirror. Name an emotion and have your child look in a mirror and create the expression that goes along with that emotion. Point out how their eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth change shapes as they practice different facial expressions. Take turns so that they can see how you would express different emotions. They will learn by watching what you do.
Bring out their creativity by making a game of identifying feelings. Art is a fun way to learn about facial expressions. Have your child, who has ben diagnosed with autism, draw or paint a picture showing people with different feelings, or work with them to create a collage of emotions. Cut out sets of eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses. Have your child on the spectrum put faces together showing emotions.
Learning to read facial expressions is important for social interactions. When your child on the spectrum can identify how a friend, classmate, sibling, parent, or person in the community feels, they can respond appropriately.
Your child on the spectrum may have a hard time retaining the things they learned and the skills they acquired at school during summer break.
Children often have a hard time retaining skills during the summer break. Many parents try to keep their child on the spectrum on a schedule by enrolling them in summer school or extended school year, but this often is an abbreviated and less structured version of the school day.
Even when children are educated at home, summer often involves routine changes. Since your child with autism relies on consistency throughout their day, these routine change can take a toll on them. They may cause stress and frustrations which can lead to aggressive behavior.
Here are some ways to help your child with Autism retain skills and stay consistent throughout summer:
1. Work On their skills – To prevent regression, talk to your child’s teachers and therapists to understand what skills they are working on and how they are doing. Review their school progress reports, IEP, and information from their teacher on summer reading and work.
2. Practice Skills – Many of the skills your child with autism is working on can be integrated into their daily routine. Dressing, self-care, and behavior naturally occur during the day. Take time to use these skills as learning opportunities in their daily routine. Practice math and motor skills by baking muffins and counting/measuring ingredients. Let your child on the spectrum mix the batter and pour it into muffin tins. Encourage them to count as they go. Practice reading and listening skills during story time and comprehension by asking questions. Talk to them about the things going on in a book, a show, or just natural occurrences in their community.
Remember it is also important to build on existing skills and continue to review old skills as your child with autism continues to learn new things.
3. Appreciate Small Steps – It can be very frustrating for parents when their child has a hard time learning a set of skills. Try to remember some skills may take awhile for your child to acquire and that each situation is unique. Stay persistent, be patient and celebrate each small step forward with your child on the spectrum. It’s important to make sure your child feels confident and supported at every step.
4. Enjoy Summer fun! When your child on the spectrum is involved in educational programs, therapies, and activities, it can be easy to forget summer break is also for relaxing and having fun. Although working on skills is important, be sure to enjoy the fun things summer has to offer. Go to the beach, swim in a pool, splash in the sprinklers etc! Make sure summer isn’t only about building skills, but that it’s also about building long lasting memories.
Children hear the words “it’s nice to share” over and over again. They are asked repeatedly to share their toys with friends, family and sometimes even strangers, but are we doing a disservice to our children by teaching them to give up their toys just because someone else wants to play with them?
The fact of the matter is that in the “real world” people are not obligated to give up their possessions just because someone else asked nicely. In fact maybe we should change the way we teach our children how to share. Maybe it would be a better life lesson to teach a child that they can play with a toy once another child is done with it, and in the meantime they can occupy their time with a different toy that no other child has picked up.
It is important that your child understands that in life they can’t always get what they want and it does a child a great disservice to teach them that they can have something that someone else has, simply because they want it.
The last thing we want is for our children to grow up into adults and think they are owed everything they see.”
It’s important to teach our kids how to cope with disappointment, because it happens. There will be times in life when they don’t get what they want, don’t achieve what they set out to do, and there won’t always be someone there to fix it for them. We need to start teaching them how they can get things they want through diligence, patience, and hard work at an early age.