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Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

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    Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

    My DS8 is on the spectrum. He is doing well academically with MP, but we are struggling a little with social skills. I specifically want to work on empathy. I have found lots of random ideas and read that I. should start with emotions, but I haven't found a systematic way to teach emotions and empathy. Does anyone know of a resource that gives a step by step approach for this? I'm hoping for something that for example says start with flashcards, then when that is mastered make faces in a mirror, then talk about the emotions of characters in books. (He has had a bit of help with this in therapy in the past, but his therapists "graduated" him from his speech and occupational therapy.)

    #2
    Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

    Originally posted by Bluemountainmama View Post
    My DS8 is on the spectrum. He is doing well academically with MP, but we are struggling a little with social skills. I specifically want to work on empathy. I have found lots of random ideas and read that I. should start with emotions, but I haven't found a systematic way to teach emotions and empathy. Does anyone know of a resource that gives a step by step approach for this? I'm hoping for something that for example says start with flashcards, then when that is mastered make faces in a mirror, then talk about the emotions of characters in books. (He has had a bit of help with this in therapy in the past, but his therapists "graduated" him from his speech and occupational therapy.)
    A few thoughts:

    Social Language Therapy
    How long ago did he "graduate" from therapy? If it has been awhile, it might be worth pursuing a new SLP evaluation specifically for social skills, social language, and empathy. Rather than speech articulation therapy, the SLP might be willing to focus on "social/pragmatic language." A good SLP will have many effective visual resources and can provide an especially systematic approach. As boys on the spectrum approach age 9 or so, parents often report new social/emotional challenges, so the therapist might consider an updated evaluation for this area of language. If your local autism group offers social skills interventions, this might be another option.

    Read-alouds
    You might add related read-alouds, such as these, to your current MP program:

    -Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning Empathy (Bob Sornson, Love & Logic)
    -How Can I Help? (Mary Moerbe, CPH) - We include this book in SC Level C, so you might be able to order from MP as an individual book during the special offer.


    Create Your Own Simple Program

    You could create your own flashcard-to-mirror-to-empathy exercises from these Emotions Cards. Work through one emotion per week, in a manner similar to this: Day 1 - Read the card and identify the emotion. Discuss times the student has felt this way himself. Day 2 - Reread the card and identify the emotion. Discuss scenarios in which others might feel this way. Day 3 - Reread the card and identify the emotion. Look for this emotion throughout the day in people around you and in the MP read-alouds and literature selections. Day 4 - Reread the card and identify ways to either alleviate the suffering of others, come alongside, or (if happy/excited/elated) rejoice with those who rejoice. Day 5 - Review all previous cards.

    If this works well, you can progress through different sets of cards, like these: Photo Feelings


    Encouragement for Yourself
    You might appreciate this session from the recent special-needs conference, Soften Hearts: Nurturing Empathy to the Challenged Child. (Sometimes they "hide" these sessions for FPEA members only, but this one seems to be available to anyone.)


    The pre-teen years are a perfect time to work on all of this. Your son's strong academic skills can assist him to "learn about" emotions, social situations, and compassion in a similar way.



    I hope some of this helps. Someone else might suggest a good all-in-one program, but your own mom-created approaches may address his needs even more effectively.

    Thanks-
    Cheryl

    Comment


      #3
      Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

      Originally posted by Bluemountainmama View Post
      My DS8 is on the spectrum. He is doing well academically with MP, but we are struggling a little with social skills. I specifically want to work on empathy. I have found lots of random ideas and read that I. should start with emotions, but I haven't found a systematic way to teach emotions and empathy. Does anyone know of a resource that gives a step by step approach for this? I'm hoping for something that for example says start with flashcards, then when that is mastered make faces in a mirror, then talk about the emotions of characters in books. (He has had a bit of help with this in therapy in the past, but his therapists "graduated" him from his speech and occupational therapy.)

      Btw, thank you for asking this. As I was answering, I realized we should add year-long sequential lessons for emotions, social skills, and empathy in SC Level 3. The age and ability level will match perfectly at this time.

      Comment


        #4
        Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

        Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
        Btw, thank you for asking this. As I was answering, I realized we should add year-long sequential lessons for emotions, social skills, and empathy in SC Level 3. The age and ability level will match perfectly at this time.
        As an official cheerleader for SC development, *I* am excited as well ;D
        Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
        Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
        Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
        Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

        “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
        ~Pope St John Paul II

        Comment


          #5
          Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

          What a great topic to find newly discussed this morning. I honestly prayed about this last night.

          My ds7, although not on the spectrum, seems baffled with picking up on others feelings. I've gone through prepping for upcoming events with proper behavior and scenarios, but when we arrive at the event it's all forgotten and pandemonium ensues.

          Thanks for the links. When I find some quiet time, I'll explore them.
          Married to DH for 14 years. Living the rural life in the Colorado mountains

          DS11- Simply Classical 5/6
          DD9- Simply Classical 5/6 (neurotypical, but schooling with big brother to save mom's sanity)
          DD 6- Classic Core First Grade

          We've completed:
          Classic Core Jr. kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
          Simply Classical levels B, C, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

          Comment


            #6
            Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

            Originally posted by Colomama View Post
            What a great topic to find newly discussed this morning. I honestly prayed about this last night.

            My ds7, although not on the spectrum, seems baffled with picking up on others feelings. I've gone through prepping for upcoming events with proper behavior and scenarios, but when we arrive at the event it's all forgotten and pandemonium ensues.

            Thanks for the links. When I find some quiet time, I'll explore them.
            My kids are so interesting... They were basically oblivious to anger, sadness or negative emotions until they were verbal (silliness or humor were always easy for them to pick up on, for some reason -- odd). But once they became more verbal they became much more aware of negative emotions. If someone is crying, they will get very concerned and go over and comfort them. My daughter will sometimes even cry with others, it makes her so sad to see someone else upset. The only big blind spot my kids have is if someone doesn't like them or is picking on them (rare, thankfully). They basically love everyone, or try to. Again, not typical.
            Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
            Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
            Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
            Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

            “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
            ~Pope St John Paul II

            Comment


              #7
              Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

              We work on this all the time. It is a struggle for my oldest children with FAS and language processing struggles. We have been using some materials from linguisystems so far but appreciate anything that reinforcements understanding feelings/expressing feelings in healthy ways. I know that my kids absorbs some of this through good literature but still they have trouble applying it directly themselves at times due to their self-regulation challenges.

              Comment


                #8
                Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                I have never posted in this part of the forum, but I do have a ds8 who is on the spectrum. He "only" has Asperger's now; however, since he started out as profoundly autistic, I often forget that he still has his own unique issues he faces. This particular thread caught my eye, as we are struggling with this very thing. My ds is a very sweet, very sensitive boy. He hugs his friends as a standard greeting (something 8 year old boys find weird), he becomes very emotional at things other kids don't (we couldn't watch the Lego movie because he fell apart during the scene where a Lego guy "grackled" his parents)...but he can't read this in others. Unless someone is giving cartoonish signals for anger, sadness or any other emotion, he is oblivious. He also does not understand how he presents to others. He doesn't "get" that boys his age don't like hugs, that not everyone is interested in hearing the minute details of his latest Lego creation or, in general, how to read and respond to the subtle cues people give.

                I, too, continue to try to help him understand this - and when we're talking, he does begin to understand. In the moment; however, he reverts to his obliviousness. I had thought about calling some of his former therapists to see about working with him again but since he's so high functioning, they usually make him the peer model. *bangs head* This is the main reason we ended up dumping OT and SLP for him.

                I am anxious to see what others post. I'm also interested to know if the sequential lessons Cheryl Swope discussed would be available as something we could purchase outside of the SC curriculum (that is, could it be purchased separately for those using other MP cores)? Or is this woven into it?
                Mary

                DD15 - 9th core + CLRC Ancient Greek I & Latin IV + VideoText math
                DS12 - 7th core + Novare Earth Science + CLRC HS Latin I + VideoText math
                DD8 - SC level 2

                Comment


                  #9
                  Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                  Originally posted by OrthodoxHandmaiden View Post
                  I have never posted in this part of the forum, but I do have a ds8 who is on the spectrum. He "only" has Asperger's now; however, since he started out as profoundly autistic, I often forget that he still has his own unique issues he faces. This particular thread caught my eye, as we are struggling with this very thing. My ds is a very sweet, very sensitive boy. He hugs his friends as a standard greeting (something 8 year old boys find weird), he becomes very emotional at things other kids don't (we couldn't watch the Lego movie because he fell apart during the scene where a Lego guy "grackled" his parents)...but he can't read this in others. Unless someone is giving cartoonish signals for anger, sadness or any other emotion, he is oblivious. He also does not understand how he presents to others. He doesn't "get" that boys his age don't like hugs, that not everyone is interested in hearing the minute details of his latest Lego creation or, in general, how to read and respond to the subtle cues people give.

                  I, too, continue to try to help him understand this - and when we're talking, he does begin to understand. In the moment; however, he reverts to his obliviousness. I had thought about calling some of his former therapists to see about working with him again but since he's so high functioning, they usually make him the peer model. *bangs head* This is the main reason we ended up dumping OT and SLP for him.

                  I am anxious to see what others post. I'm also interested to know if the sequential lessons Cheryl Swope discussed would be available as something we could purchase outside of the SC curriculum (that is, could it be purchased separately for those using other MP cores)? Or is this woven into it?
                  So glad you finally posted over here! We need your input more, m'dear. You've got a ton of experience in this area and can be a good coach. You can also ask really helpful questions like these! I would be interested to see, actually, if (like literature, math and recitation) we could purchase lesson plans for social/life skills separately or customize Levels on this criteria. This would be so helpful for new SC students and for students using regular MP cores but who need this type of assistance.

                  PS Cheryl's insight, the materials she includes in all the SC levels and the way we engage with the materials is SO EFFECTIVE. Just a little endorsement from a successful user.
                  Last edited by Anita; 12-28-2015, 04:35 PM.
                  Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                  Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                  Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                  Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                  “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                  ~Pope St John Paul II

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                    Originally posted by OrthodoxHandmaiden View Post
                    I have never posted in this part of the forum, but I do have a ds8 who is on the spectrum....

                    I am anxious to see what others post. I'm also interested to know if the sequential lessons Cheryl Swope discussed would be available as something we could purchase outside of the SC curriculum (that is, could it be purchased separately for those using other MP cores)? Or is this woven into it?
                    Welcome, Mary!

                    I hear all of you loudly and clearly. A while ago, Miah asked for this too. Her youngest would be ready for an academic approach to learning social skills by now.


                    We'll try to create a set of 34-week open-and-go lessons with companion resources on this topic. If possible, we'll try to make this available for purchase separately, so it can be taught alongside either MP or SC (or any curriculum) at any level.

                    Thanks-
                    Cheryl

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                      Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
                      Welcome, Mary!

                      I hear all of you loudly and clearly. Miah has asked for this too.

                      We'll try to create a set of 34-week open-and-go lessons with companion resources on this topic. If possible, we'll try to make this available for purchase separately, so it can be taught alongside either MP or SC at any level.

                      Thanks-
                      Cheryl
                      Yaaaaaaay! This would also be a great resource for other, non-MP or SC users to pick up and use with their schooling. If someone does not want to change their homeschooling program but needs this kind of help, they can purchase this as a supplement. I hope, in any case, that this draws attention to how many students are in need. (Getting on soapbox, raising voice) There are so many families who need help but don't know about SC, or their children are too old for the Levels available right now. There are families who truly want to homeschool but this component is difficult for them to teach. Any help *we* (the little supportive players who ask questions and make recommendations, and MP, who makes it a reality) can give these families is *such* a blessing. I know from when we were looking for curricula, that it was immensely frustrating trying to find help. Finding SC just rescued us. (Exiting soapbox)
                      Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                      Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                      Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                      Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                      “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                      ~Pope St John Paul II

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                        BTW, Mary: should our sons ever meet, there would be mutual hugs hello and mutual hugs goodbye. And if your son did anything noteworthy, enthusiastic clapping and fist bumps. Winston is a love. So nice to hear he has a spiritual twin.
                        Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                        Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                        Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                        Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                        “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                        ~Pope St John Paul II

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                          Originally posted by Anita View Post
                          So glad you finally posted over here! We need your input more, m'dear. You've got a ton of experience in this area and can be a good coach. You can also ask really helpful questions like these! )
                          Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
                          Welcome, Mary!
                          Thanks! I guess I just assumed that since I'm not using SC, I shouldn't post over here. Perhaps my little apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, given our need for compartmentalization. *LOL*

                          As for experience, I only got this far by being hard-headed. Cheryl is much more graceful - I've read her book. You should stick with her for advice.

                          Back to the topic - I'm very interested in this sort of module to add to our current lessons. I'm curious how this would be put together. That is, would this be a multi-level module from which one could choose a level based on the child's current situation? Or is this one single set in which we can scan through and begin where appropriate for our individual child?

                          I really hope that was clear!
                          Mary

                          DD15 - 9th core + CLRC Ancient Greek I & Latin IV + VideoText math
                          DS12 - 7th core + Novare Earth Science + CLRC HS Latin I + VideoText math
                          DD8 - SC level 2

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                            Originally posted by OrthodoxHandmaiden View Post
                            Thanks! I guess I just assumed that since I'm not using SC, I shouldn't post over here. Perhaps my little apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, given our need for compartmentalization. *LOL*

                            As for experience, I only got this far by being hard-headed. Cheryl is much more graceful - I've read her book. You should stick with her for advice.
                            Nonsense! We need "been there, done that" empathy coaches. Moms in the trenches need validating words. The special needs community is small -- special needs homeschoolers are practically alone in the wilderness! The more touchstones we have, the better! Chime in wherever appropriate!

                            (And use exclamation points! .... what's with that, Anita? Yikes...)
                            Last edited by Anita; 12-28-2015, 07:00 PM.
                            Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                            Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                            Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                            Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                            “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                            ~Pope St John Paul II

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Re: Teaching emotions and empathy to a child on the autism spectrun

                              Oh this is an interesting thread...everyone is coming out of their holiday cookie comas with good ideas!

                              We seem to have an empathy delay problem...anger/lashing out kicks in as a impulse response to change/fear/surprise and then after we get meltdowns if a sibling was hurt or scared by an intense reaction.

                              Ds is very empathetic and is so upset to the point of despair and self recrimination if he has the "wrong" emotional impulse ...we just can not slow down the fear/anger reaction enough to use the empathy to prevent the cycle in the first place.

                              So complicated this feeling stuff and ties into our lessons daily..."I thought we were doing multiplication, this is division!" ...kiddo panics..."this is new!"...panic gets worse and calls to me but before I get there a sibling pops up under elbow and startles ds who does not see the happy face and toy sibling is offering in an effort to help him stay calm...ds lashes out yelling and pushes sibling in order to go hide...then after he is a dark quiet place ds reviews in his head then sees the happy face and understands that he was not being attacked and
                              pushed a sibling who was attempting to comfort him...this is the point at which I usually find a sobbing child.

                              It is like he has to translate every face/tone/posture through multiple languages before it makes sense and it is so slow and I know he is not alone with the whole whammy of anxiety exacerbating the whole situation...it takes so long to process he panics before he figures it out. Sigh

                              My Ds will probably be to old for anything that may come out in the future but I think it sounds like a great thing to add to your offerings Cheryl!
                              Winter 2020 :
                              DD - Graduated!
                              DS - core 10 with remediation/support
                              DD - core 7 with remediation/support
                              DS - core 5 with remediation/support

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