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Emotions and Autism

This week on NBC‘s Parenthood, Max learns to apologize following the lunchtime situation he had with his cousin Jabbar. Max is upset to hear that not only does Jabbar not have detention, he doesn’t have to write a letter. Max is angry and doesn’t understand, which results in a meltdown.

Amber joins Max during his lunch detention to help work on emotional recognition. You can view the clip here.

How do you work on emotional recognition? In what ways do you teach feelings; happy, sad, angry, etc.? We’d love to hear your strategies and techniques.

Parenthoods’s The Experts Speak says, “An individuals with ASD do not glean information from facial expressions of others as typical individuals do. They do not always look people in the eye, do not understand a lifted eyebrow, smirk, sad face, disappointed face and all the other messages sent by someone else’s facial expression. In addition, when you combine all of these expressions with the thousands of possible gestures and vocal inflections – which add their own meanings into the mix – you can understand why this is an incredibly difficult skill to master when one does not have the neurological basis for doing so.”

For Further Reference:

Stephen Shore: Strengths and Challenges

WrongPlanet: Using Facial Expressions

Squidalicious: Autism and Facial Expressions 

A Diary of a Mom: Emotional Identification

  1. Tammy Short
    October 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Teaching my moderate/severely autistic daughter emotions was and continues to be very difficult. Intially we used pictures with the emotion written above the picture to discribe the particular emotion. Barney and friends has many videos that address emotion as well. She has always related to the Barney videos and learned many social and safety skills simply by enjoying the video. She learned many emotions from Baby Bumblebee series too. Applying the emotions to how she is feeling or how others are feeling remained foreign and seemingly unachievable until very recently. She is 11 and has a Chat PC Silk. Part of the goal for using the chat pc was to increase her usage of emotions. Although I feel strongly that the chat pc has become more of a toy than a tool to her, it has greatly helped her in using the appropriate word to express her emotions and the other day she was getting ready to have a meltdown, when she found me and said “come help me please. I’m angry” I was so proud of her and began to tear up. She finally got it…… AMEN!

  2. Jen Rose
    October 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I am so proud that “Parenthood” has a child character featured with an ASD; It has really helped to bring about more knowledge to the general public, who otherwise wouldn’t know so much about the many forms of ASDs. My son was diagnosed over the summer with an ASD. For some of our friends and family, they brought up “Parenthood” when we told them of our son’s diagnosis; I believe it’s helped them to better understand our son, to a certain degree. There’s been a few episodes where ASD related issues, challenges, and strengths have been acknowledged, and for this I am so proud of NBC.

    “Reading” emotions is a difficult thing to teach. For most people, this is a part of social learning that we pick up through observation and interaction from a very early age. For kids with ASDs this isn’t typically the case. I know that each child is different, and that there are different extremes. With our son, we have always talked to him. I’ve known for quite some time, long time prior to his diagnosis, that he had issues with “reading” emotions, So, I talked with him. Both my husband and I have found that we need to explain to him what a raised eyebrow might mean, or a raised voice, etc. We use social stories, sometimes hypothetical, but often are real cases involving himself and others; maybe an event that took place on the playground at school that day. We try to talk to him and go through what could have been done differently on his part….what the intentions of the other person may have been (he will often misperceive others’ intentions and actions), etc. We talk about how he felt at the time, how he currently feels, and also the other person: how they may have felt, what they may have been thinking, and what impact his actions may have had upon them. We, literally, practice at home, events that have happened so that if they occur again, he might be better prepared to handle the situation.

    We, also, read funny comics and books…and discuss the jokes and why they are funny. This can be fun with patience, and what’s cool about this is that you grant yourself the opportunity of discovering your child’s unique sense of humor.

    Another thing that has helped us as parents is listening to other parents of children with ASDs and taking advantage of their experiences and advice:)

  3. Dave Siefert
    October 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Everyday I am thankful for the techniques and empowerment of RDI. Our now 15 year old son is more able to cope with his emotions and those others than many NT teenagers. Thank you Dr. Gutstein.

  4. Rita Kellogg
    October 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I am 65 yrs. old and an autie….we’re not sure where I fall on the spectrum. It seems to be high functioning…but also have several savant skills. I try to make eye contact more than I used to, but even when I do,eyes don’t tell me a message that others see. I catch exaggerated emotional signals, but not subtle ones. My friends have been teaching me in a way by making exaggerated faces, but since I don’t commonly see faces like that, I’m still baffled. Had learned to recognize people by their manner of clothing and movements mostly, and have gotten pretty good at that. I’m not particularly concerned anymore about reading emotions, etc. Have always had a kind of sixth sense about people anyhow, and that kind of took the place of understanding what folks are about.

  5. Joy
    October 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    My step-daughter is very intune with movies, after watching them a couple of time she can repeat them back. So we use that as a tool. Everytime we see something that is happening emotional (happy, sad, depressed, angry, etc.) we pause it and ask her what she thinks each character is feeling and why she thinks they are feeling that way. We are able to see if she is picking up on the ques and how she is processing them at the same time. This could also be used for interactions with another person, such as apologizing, asking for permission for something, or even just a typical conversation. Role playing seems to have helped her some, but she is extremely socially avoidant, so just getting her into the situations without an anxiety attack is difficult sometimes.

  6. Mee
    October 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    When our 6 year old was about 2 we began shhowing him faces with different emotions. Today he will make the face he is feeling…at the time he was 2 we did not know he was an Asperger’ we only knew he liked to make faces.

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