Sharing Emotions

Games About Facial Expressions

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders vary their ability to understand, spontaneously show, imitate, and respond to facial expressions. Most of the children that I have known "catch" emotions from others to some extent. Many of the children that I have known seem overly vulnerable to other people's emotions--easily becoming overwhelmed by intense expressions of sadness, anger, and even excitement and happiness.

Powerful Displays of Emotions get Attention!

As a parent, you need a plan for helping your child express desires and emotions verbally. Yet, you can't reinforcing every dramatic display of emotion by giving your child what he or she wants. Clearly, this is harder to manage when a child has some form of autism and it is not that easy with any child. Your child with autism probably has difficulty 1) understanding what causes emotions 2) knowing how to get calm again after becoming upset, and 3) communicating emotions. Games can help because in play your child has a chance to practice emotions while not feeling overwhelmed and you have a chance to model and guide your child toward appropriate expressions of emotions so that when, in real life, you see a treacherous moment coming, you can remind him or her of an appropriate way to handle feelings. And finally, if you have a plan that you have practiced, you are less likely to become overwhelmed yourself and give your child what he or she wants simply because you want to get through the moment (or hour) without getting emotionally overwhelmed yourself. Can We Go? Is one game we use at the clinic to help children learn to hear "no" from a parent and in this game the child can practice saying "No" to a parent as well--which is delightful.

Your Child Asks and You Say No!

Find a number of different ways to say "No". Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • I have bad news

  • Uh Oh!

  • I wish we could, what a good idea, but...

  • Let's write that down for later...

  • I will ask my boss and see if we can do that next time..

  • Put your sad face on, (I demonstrate) not today