Search This Site


Affective Education: Teaching Children on the Autism Spectrum About Emotions

Does your child have difficulty expressing troubling emotions using his or her words rather than acting-out? Does your child seem to lack an understanding about the emotions of other people? If so, here are some ways to educate your child on the subject:

The main goal of Affective Education is to teach children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s why they have emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression. A basic principle is to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project.

The choice of which emotion to start with is decided by the parent (or teacher), but a useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. This can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness, but can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling (e.g., a photograph of a rare lizard for a child with a special interest in reptiles).

The content of the scrapbook also can include sensations that may elicit the feeling of happiness or pleasure (e.g., aromas and textures), and/or can be used as a diary to include compliments, and records of achievement (e.g., certificates and memorabilia).
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Affective Education includes the parent describing - and the child discovering - the relevant cues that indicate a particular level of emotional expression in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face can be described as an “information center” for emotions.

The typical errors that children with HFA and Asperger’s make when trying to comprehend emotions include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. The parent can use a range of games to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that an individual is angry).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it’s important to use an “instrument” to measure the degree of intensity. The parent can construct a model “thermometer,” “gauge,” or volume control, and can use a range of activities to define the level of expression (e.g., the parent can create a selection of pictures of happy faces and place each picture at the appropriate point on the instrument).

Some kids on the spectrum can use extreme statements (e.g., “I am going to kill myself”) to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “non-autistic” child. During a program of Affective Education, the parent often has to increase the child’s vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.

Affective Education not only includes activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others - but also in oneself. The child (and those who know him well) can create a list of his physical, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate his increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using one of the special instruments mentioned earlier (e.g., an emotion thermometer). One of the aspects of Affective Education is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next part of Affective Education can be to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion. For example, after exploring happiness, the next emotion explored might be sadness. Feeling relaxed would be explored before a project on feeling anxious. In addition, the child should be encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some strategies or activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

Many children with HFA and Asperger’s have considerable difficulty translating their feelings into conversational words. The parent can create “comic strip conversations” that use figures with speech and thought bubbles (e.g., a cartoon of an angry boy who is thinking to himself, “I’m really upset right now”).

Other activities to be considered in Affective Education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate the child’s behavior when expressing anger.

Another activity called “Guess the Message” can include the presentation of specific cues to indicate doubt (e.g., a raised eyebrow), surprise (e.g., wide-opened mouth and eyes), disgust (e.g., crinkled nose with tongue sticking out), and so on.

Lastly, it’s important to incorporate the child’s special interest in the program (e.g., a child whose special interest is the weather and has suggested that his emotions are expressed as a weather report). 

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

No comments:

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...