One of the most heart breaking symptoms of autism spectrum disorder or ASD is the perceived lack of emotional connection.
Autistic people are just not ‘tuned in’ so to speak. This inability is most felt by members of the immediate family, especially parents in the case of autistic children.
It can be hard for a child struggling with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to understand his feelings, let alone the emotional responses and tendencies of others.
This makes it difficult for them to properly relate with the world around them as they grow older.
There is hope, however. There are several techniques through which a parent or care-giver can reach into the seemingly unreachable depths of the autistic mind to help a child recognise feelings such as love, attraction, hurt among others.
Before looking at the different techniques, it’s good we get one thing clear from the beginning: autistic kids experience emotion! All the time. They just have their own way of showing it. Studies have also shown that children with ASD do not recognise facial expression, which accounts for a lot of the difficulty in reading the emotional responses of those around them.
The aim of these techniques or therapies is to give these children a better understanding and recognition of these expressions so that they can apply it for themselves whenever possible.
Techniques for Helping Your Child Recognise Feelings:
Picture Cards: Autistic children have been known to learn best with the assistance of visual aids like picture cards. Picture cards have successfully been used as a guide to teach real-life skills such as dressing and undressing, and can also be used with similar success to teach emotions and feelings. In this case, the picture cards can contain emotional expressions of different people of diff gender, age, race and ethnicity. There are websites online that provide free visual resources.
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) : ABA methods use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviour. You could provide examples of emotional behaviour, and then reward the child whenever he or she gives the correct emotional response.
Social Stories: Social stories help teach social skills to autistic children by recounting to them stories that contain common social scenarios. The stories outline how to respond to these scenarios. These social stories that contain situations and feelings and different emotional responses help autistic children to better understand emotions in context.
Online Games: The internet has many games that teach autistic children about emotions by engaging them. Many children with autism enjoy the online gaming experience, and in this way the games can constitute a valuable learning experience.
Play Therapy: Child led play can lead to emotional bonds between parents and their children, providing a first-hand opportunity to help teach your child about feelings. Great play therapy techniques such as Dr Stanley I. Greenspan’s Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based model (DIR) have been known to be very effective in this regard.
The road will be hard, daunting and sometimes downright frustrating, but you must maintain a positive attitude and a loving atmosphere around the child if you are going to have success.
Do you have an experience you would like to share? Drop us a comment below.