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Understanding emotions and facial expressions

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    People with autism often have difficulty interpreting what people are thinking or feeling through their facial expressions and this can be very confusing for them.

    Helping your child understand emotions

    They can benefit from support in furthering their understanding of emotions and facial expressions. You could talk about emotions and the perspectives of others through discussion about characters in reading books or when watching a TV programme together. You could talk about what might lead people to feel the way they do. This may help your child gain greater insight into different emotions and what different facial expressions and body language signals might mean. You could also talk to your child about what you are thinking or feeling during the course of everyday activities and in specific circumstances.

    Your child will also benefit from learning about how people express different emotions. For instance, you could discuss how people might feel in different situations and what their face and body might look like. Discuss emotions and the perspectives of others through class-based work and discussion of characters in reading books at home and school. Discuss emotions as they arise in real situations and films. Help your child to understand facial expressions by talking about them in real situations, e.g. “Fred looks sad because . . .”“I think you feel happy because . . .” Include the use of visual supports, when necessary.

    You could also go through magazines together cutting out faces which match a particular emotion, for instance, happy or surprised. There are also work books for parents/staff to work through with children that focus on managing particular emotions, such as anger. For example: “A volcano in my tummy: Helping children to handle anger” by Elaine Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney.

    Talk about others’ emotions with your child to help them to understand and interpret the situation. Try to reflect on real social situations and talk about emotions. Draw images to help make this discussion more concrete for your child.

    Understanding emotions and facial expressions can be a challenge for those with autism, so it is important to aid them in understanding visual cues and how these can relate to situations and emotions.

    Please get in touch with our dedicated team if you require further support.

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