07 Feb How to Help Your Child Understand What Others May Be Thinking
Many children with autism often have a difficult time understanding their own feelings, let alone the feelings of others. There are so many daily situations that occur when your child may be feeling totally confused as to why you are reacting a certain way. For example, if you come home from work and you had a bad day, you may look upset, act short-tempered, and display little patience. Your child may not pick up on ANY of these clues, which can make you feel even more frustrated. Autism can certainly make reading other people’s body language incredibly tricky.
You may often hear the response, “I seriously have no idea what that person is thinking or feeling. I am not that person, so how am I supposed to know what they are thinking?” Can you relate?
When your child has no idea what someone else is thinking, here’s what you can do to help:
1. Point out other people’s emotions to her. You can do this when watching television, playing on the computer in Google Images, in your home with family members, or tactfully when out in the community with strangers. It’s important to help your child recognize and understand how the people in her closest circle are feeling. This will help her understand what they might be thinking.
2. Give choices and encourage your child to take guesses as to why a person may be feeling a certain way. Make it into a game. If your child often responds with, “I have no idea what he is thinking,” you can get silly with this activity to help her. For example, if Dad is cooking dinner and drops a pan of food on the floor, he will most likely look flustered. Ask your child, “What do you think Dad is thinking right now? Is he thinking about the rain outside? Is he thinking about the dog? Or, is he thinking about the dinner all over the floor?”
3. Help your child play detective by tuning into clues around her. In the example above, ask your child to look at clues that may help her figure out how her dad is feeling. For example, the pan fell on the floor, dinner has spilled everywhere, Dad raised his voice, and Dad’s face turned red. What could all of this mean?
4. Encourage your child to look at another person’s body language and where that person’s eyes may be looking. By noticing a person’s posture and eye-gaze your child can learn some important clues that will help her understand others’ thoughts and emotions.
5. Role-play different scenarios. Acting may not make your child feel very comfortable, or perhaps she loves it. If she’s not so comfy with this activity, keep practicing, and get silly. Model different situations for her and try to get her to guess how you might be feeling. Encourage her to act out some different scenes as well. You can write down a bunch of options on paper and fold them into a cup. Then take turns picking an option. Make this activity into a game and have some fun.
While understanding thoughts and feelings may not be easy for your child with autism, you can definitely make things easier for her by practicing the listed strategies.
Please share below, what is your child’s usual response when you ask, “What do you think I am thinking right now?”
For more support and strategies, please be sure to check out our online program, The Autism Solutions Blueprint. There is a section focused on social skills (among 11 other topics), visual tools that you can print out, and video trainings to walk you through how to make your home autism-friendly. In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month, you can literally pay whatever you can afford for this program for the next few weeks. Click here for more information.