Difficulty recognizing the emotional cues of others is a potential symptom of autism. For children diagnosed with autism, this can create discomfort in social situations and hinder friendships from forming. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy can help teach emotional regulation and lead to a better understanding and recognition of emotions by teaching skills for coping through productive outlets.
An effective strategy used in ABA therapy is the use of picture cards. Picture cards have faces depicting various emotions. The child is shown each card and then therapist or parent helps the child learn the cues that indicate what that facial expression means. Beyond learning the differences between smiles and frowns, a child can learn that a furrowed brow means confusion, one lifted eyebrow is a questioning look, and biting your lower lip indicates nervousness.
But, picture cards with just facial expressions might not provide a completed explanation for the child. It’s also helpful to match emotions to pictures of common scenarios, such as the happy face of a boy at a birthday party.