Children with autism often have difficulty with reading emotional expressions of others. Identifying and appropriately expressing emotions are among some of the most common therapy goals for children with autism. I have recently just started my journey as a mother of a child receiving speech-language services and it has been interesting to be on the other side of the table. My son Victor is just 3 years old and he started receiving speech-language therapy this week. One of his goals in therapy is the following:
“Victor will match pictures of actions/events to pictures of the corresponding emotion caused by the action/event in 7/10 trials with verbal reminders (ie. picture of boy playing with his puppy will be matched to a happy face picture).”
We had never played with emotions activities; his vocabulary for emotions was probably limited to happy, sad, and upset (all in Portuguese). This goal prompted me to start integrating this goal into all we do on a daily basis. We talk about feelings with him when we are reading books, watching TV and, of course, I went to search what the app store had to offer. To this day, I had not yet developed an app that specifically targets emotions. Emotions are targeted on one of the apps I created called Adjective Remix, however I was looking for more. So a couple of weeks ago I went app shopping.
In order to get Victor to try to new apps, I have to delete some of his favorite ones from the iPad so he is left with only the new ones. Otherwise he will always revert back to his faves.
Pocoyo Playset Feelings
Languages: English & Spanish
Description: I have always thought that Pokoyo was one of the cutest characters for young children. This is Victor’s favorite feelings app for sure. One thing that drives me nuts is that even when you select English as the default language, the app will always repeat the feelings in both English and Spanish. This is not a big deal for most families, but we speak mostly Portuguese, and thanks to the similarities between Spanish and Portuguese, Victor now uses the Spanish Emotion words as if they were Portuguese.
The app has cute animations that really makes Victor quite fascinated and interested in imitating all of the emotions. This app includes a feeling notebook that allows children to take their own photo attempting to imitate the feeling selected. The app also includes three levels of a game to match feelings– my favorite is the demonstrations of various feelings.
Sesame Street Breathe
Languages: English & Spanish
Description:This app provides demonstrations of a variety of social situations that may cause stress and frustration to young children ages 2 to 5. Some of the situations include difficulty putting on shoes, separating from a parent when going to school,
calming down the monster by tapping on its belly (which makes the character take breaths and calm down), and think of plans to solve a situation that is causing frustration.
I can confidently say that Victor has transferred his knowledge of a variety of emotions from using these apps to being able to identify emotions on book characters, TV shows and of course real life. It is very important to note that the apps gave a platform upon which to build the vocabulary, which I used constantly in all other activities of his day.
Expressions for Autism
Description: This app gives children the opportunity to build faces using body parts to match feelings from a social story. While this app felt quite advanced for a young one like my son, it is a simple app that would help discussing the details of the facial expressions of each emotion.