Almost all children struggle with recognizing emotions in others, but for a child with autism, this skill is even more complex. Their inability to read body language or facial expression well lends to even more complications throughout their life, which is why it’s important to teach this skill early. Learning how to recognize emotions impacts all areas of a person’s life, from school, to work, to making friends and strengthening family bonds.

One great thing about teaching a child emotions is that they have to look at faces to achieve it. Something that people with autism struggle to do. An applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist can teach this in a variety of ways, one way is to show pictures faces that are sad, happy, worried, angry, etc. They ask the child which face is which and have the child point or tell the therapist.

Therapists can also teach this through expressing the emotions to the child and having them identify it. They express the emotion in an overt way, by grinning and clapping and asking what the child thinks the therapist feels.

The more the child practices identifying emotions in an artificial setting, the more likely they can recognize emotions in an everyday setting. Once a child can label and identify emotions, they can move on to learning how to deal with the emotions in themselves and others.

ABA is a great tool that helps children to learn a range of complex abilities that will help them with life skills across a range of areas, from school, to home to friends. Learning emotions is just one tool of many.