An app that I am using this week (6/5–6–9)
Working with students with autism allows you to see so many different children who have so many different skills. From year to year, I consider it a blessing that I am able to support these children as they grow and learn. While there are different approaches and mindsets to helping students with autism, there is one aspect I am frequently asked to intervene and help out: emotions.
Emotional development is quite profound, and there are expectations for all children. I think of my own children and how I am either amazed or perplexed on almost a daily basis. Why did they do that? Why did they react that way?
For students with autism, the challenges are increased exponentially. First, you have understanding and labeling emotions. Then, you have functional communication around emotions. If a student with autism is nonverbal, it becomes a significant challenge with both identifying, labeling, and communicating emotions.
If I had a nickel for every teacher, paraprofessional, and especially parent who asked me to help with figuring out the puzzle around their child’s emotions, I’d have a lot… oh, you know where I am going.
I think identification and labeling of emotions are crucial for helping to develop skills around emotions for any child (not just ones with autism). As an SLP, I work with pragmatic language challenges that are prevalent in variety of children. Students with developmental disabilities, attention deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD), and language delays can all manifest challenges in the area of pragmatic language. What’s the best way to help children start to understand and label emotions? While I have some recommendations for non-technological ways, I am going to show you a fantastic tool for helping as well.
Emotions from I Can Do Apps is a full-featured app that allows you to work on multiple levels of skills for children who need to work on understanding and labeling emotions. Furthermore, it collects data which allows you to measure progress going forward. Let’s take a closer look…
Identifying picture with the emotion:
I find this to be a great starting point for some of my students. You can have the student read the prompt, you can read it, or have the student touch the speaker icon to have it read aloud. The pictures are within a field of 3 so it is challenging, but not overwhelming. I find this to be a great way of getting children to start putting faces to words.
Identify emotion with the picture:
For me, this picks up the level of difficulty. Students now need to “find” the word in their lexicon and pair it with the targeted picture. I have found such positive success with Emotions, that I now have students who look past the prompts and verbalize right away!
Identify picture based on scenario and emotion:
Once again, this steps up the level of difficulty and makes children start to consider a situation. Like “Between the Lines” from Hamaguchi Apps, this requires a student to think about a situation. Since I have been using Emotions, I typically read the short passage. I try to read with as much expression as possible to highlight any nuances which would help the student guess the face. Like the first activity, this has children think of an emotion by looking for a face which I think is necessary to developing the later skills of labeling an emotion.
Identify picture with label based on scenario:
Now, we have the situation being presented and we are adding another layer of support. The emotion word with the targeted face. I love how this app steadily increases the challenge but also provides supports!
Identify picture based on scenario:
This last activity increases the challenge because there is no labeled emotion. I have gotten to this stage with some of my students, and again, I have been so pleased to see them label the emotion as well as pick the picture.
Overall, Emotions is a complete app that can help you address skills surrounding emotions for children with pragmatic language challenges. It collects data (although not within the app) so that you may measure progress. It increases in difficulty and while it does have a solid base in receptive language, there are outlets for your students to show off improvements in expressive language as well. Don’t forget to pause and let them fill in the blanks sometimes!
When considering non-tech options, I return to the ideas of identifying and labeling emotions to help with developing these skills. Here are some other tips.
- When a child is displaying emotions, either positive or negative, be sure to give labels to them. Avoid questions (How do you feel?). Label and give language to the child (You look so happy! I see you smiling!)
- The ubiquity of video and pictures between phones or tablets allows you to video and snap a picture of a child when displaying emotions- use the video as a vehicle for review later on.
- Talk about characters in picture books or in favorite shows. Be specific and label what makes them look happy, sad, mad, etc.
- When difficult emotions. Are being displayed, give language in those situations. This is especially true in school when work demands might be presented. Allow children the ability to use language to change tasks or modify them (of course, not outright refusal!). If they do a task “their” way once, it doesn’t mean you are losing control of a classroom.
Check out the Emotions app, and give some of these tips a try. As always, if there is something you are using to work in emotions, share with me on Twitter @itsalllanguage, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!