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Try This Tuesday: Happy or sad?

Posted Aug 04 2009 6:34pm

We've been trying to work with Bitty lately on recognizing emotions / facial expressions, using his Thomas trains. The good thing about this is that he loves Thomas so it's easy to get his attention using the trains. I'll hold up a train and ask, "Is James happy or sad?" When he wants to play, he'll bring me a train and ask "Iss Jayss happy o' sah?" At first I thought he was asking me the question, but have since figured out that he not only repeats what I say, but will often say what he wants me to say, in hopes that I'll repeat him. (example: when he asks me "you wah yo' cup?" what he really means is I'm supposed to ask him if he wants his cup, lol.).

He doesn't always get the "right" answer, and I haven't been able to figure out yet if he really doesn't know them yet, or if he's doing it because he thinks it's funny to answer "wrong." (He does that with other things, but when I know that he knows the answer, then I know he's just being silly).

The not-so-great thing about using his trains for this is that most of them are smiling so we don't have as broad a range of emotions there as I would like. In brainstorming ideas to work on a wider range of facial expressions, I remembered the emotions chart that Julie made a while back for her son. I think I'm going to make something similar using Thomas character faces.

Another tool I came across recently for teaching how to recognize emotions through facial expressions is a game created by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) for the Thomas the Tank Engine website that asks players to choose which engine's face is happy, sad, scared, etc. You can find the game online here (it's a free, web-based game). My only issue with the game is that the instructions are not read aloud so unless the child playing the game can read, they won't be able to play independently, but they can play with an adult helping / reading instructions to them.

I tried playing it with Bitty but he doesn't like being read to and likes to play at his own pace in his own way, so he quickly bored of me trying to help him read the instructions... I'll have to work on teaching him to recognize the words happy, sad, angry, etc. so he can play on his own. He's not really reading yet but he does recognize some words, mostly the names of Thomas characters (of course!). He is more interested in them than in his own name.

What other ideas have worked for you in teaching your children how to recognize facial expressions?

Related: Thomas & Friends have their own video channel on YouTube, here's one about identifying happy or sad engines :).

For more Try This Tuesday, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

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