Helping Children with Autism Understand Emotions
Emotions – the way we feel and react to certain situations – can be difficult for even the most competent of adults to handle. However, children with autism are more likely to struggle with communication, self-expression and social ques. Therefore, they often find it hard to understand how they or those around them may be feeling. This does not mean that they do not care, they simply process their thoughts differently.
At Alee behavioral, our years of experience working with children with autism has given us a greater understanding into the complex and varied ways in which a child with autism’s mind may work. It is important to remember that every child is different, but with your support, you can find ways to help them grow, develop, and reach their full potential.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to help your child express and better understand their emotions.
1) Label emotions in everyday life
Help your child learn to recognize emotions by ‘labelling’ them as you move throughout the day. For example, if you are watching a television show and a character is crying, you can make a comment about how they are feeling sad. If you see your child smile, ask what made them happy. The more you talk about emotions, the easier it will be for your child to do the same.
2) Use emotion cards
Another way of helping your child express emotion is through ‘Emotion Cards’. You can purchase some online or make your own! Simply stick the cards somewhere where your child will see them every day. You could ask them to point at the picture that best represents how they are feeling each morning, or ask them to describe what a certain feeling is like.
3) Find and identify emotional triggers
Children with autism can often feel some emotions more intensely than others. For example, if they are feeling uncomfortable or frustrated, they may be more prone to lashing out and feeling angry. However, they may struggle to understand what has made them angry in the first place. The best way to identify triggers is to monitor behavior and ask them questions.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about their triggers, especially if you believe this behavior could lead to a meltdown. Ask plenty of questions, ask what you could do to make them feel better, or what you could do to stop the situation from happening again. Together, you can identify triggers and find ways to avoid them in the future.
4) Attend therapy
Therapy is a great way for anyone to process their thoughts and feelings and better understand the world around them. At Alee behavioral, we offer a range of services specially tailored towards children with autism and their families at our autism clinic, such as Speech Therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Occupational Therapy.
For more information, see a list of our online therapy services.
5) Excite and engage
Children learn best when the materials we provide them are bright, engaging and fun! There are plenty of resources online which can make talking about/recognizing emotions more fun!
A great example of this is the ‘Emotions Song’, from the StoryBots! The more we expose our children to conversations about emotions, the more their understanding will develop.
Help Children with Autism Understand Emotions
While it may be difficult for children with autism to understand and process their emotions, it’s important to recognize that they are not emotionless. Too often, the media depicts those with autism as cold and lacking in empathy – when often the opposite is true. By offering your child your support and engaging in regular conversations about emotions with them, you will help them grow and develop into mature and confident adults.