Asperger's Kids: Difficulty Labeling Emotions

Question

Tips on teaching black-and-white kids labels for different emotions would be invaluable. With our nine-year-old, everyone is either happy, sad, frustrated or mad. His difficulty labeling emotions compounds problems because by not being able to adequately express what he’s feeling and be understood. This frustration usually ends with a day full of sitting on the couch with his head down, not talking to anyone because he’s so upset. How can I help him better express himself?

Answer

It can be very difficult for some children with Asperger’s Syndrome to understand their own emotions. They have a very hard time reading the emotions of others as well. This can be a very frustrating place for a child to be and helping him to learn how to identify these emotions can be very beneficial for your child.

Understand that it will be difficult for your child to learn how to identify emotions. He’ll first need to have a frame of reference. In her book, “What’s That Look on Your Face? All About Faces and Feelings,” Catherine S. Snodgrass has created a set of pictures of exaggerated facial expressions. These pictures are accompanied by poems that further reinforce the emotion shown in the face to help reinforce the connection in the child’s mind. This is a great way to begin to teach your child how to read and identify emotions.

You can also create activities for you and your child to participate in, depending on the age of your child and his desire to participate. You can photograph yourself and your child making faces that portray different emotions. You can have pictures of happy faces, sad faces, frustrated faces, and mad faces – all sorts of faces. Take a picture of you and take a picture of your child making the same face. You can take those photographs and turn them into flash cards so your child can practice identifying emotions.

Once he has a language and a frame of reference, then you can begin to help your child learn to identify how he is feeling. This can be a time consuming process, but a very important process. When you see your son is happy, have him stop what he’s doing and talk about what it feels like to be happy. He will begin to equate the feeling he’s having with the word. You can do this with many emotions, such as anger and frustration. Once your son begins to connect words with the emotions he is having, he’ll be able to correctly identify the emotions. This will help greatly when you are trying to help him modify some of his behaviors that may surround some of his emotions, especially around anger and frustration issues.

Be patient with your son and try to understand how frustrating and confusing this can be for him. If he begins to understand that you are trying to help him understand this confusing issue, he will be better able to open up to you.


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