5 Tips for Teaching Feelings and Emotions

By The Artsy SLP

Feelings are the emotions that we experience everyday. Many people are able to decipher emotions by looking at a person’s face, reading nonverbal cues, and then determining how a person feels. However, for students on the Autism Spectrum, it is challenging to recognize facial expressions. It is also difficult for them to read nonverbal cues and understand how a person is feeling.

Nonverbal language cues include:

Eye Contact

Body Contact

Personal Space


Facial Expressions

Strategies that help teach nonverbal language:

1. Pointing out facial expressions.

Show your students pictures of people exhibiting different facial expressions. Point out their eyes, mouth, and body language. Point out if the person is smiling, frowning, or has a neutral face. Help your students identify the emotions. For example, if a person is smiling; point out to your students that that person feels happy.

2. Use “I feel when” statements.

Once a student is able to identify facial expressions, they may need help with interpreting their own emotions. Students may still have difficulty determining how their own emotions make them feel. By using their own examples, it will help increase their understanding. For example, a student can say “I feel peaceful when my mom reads my favorite book.”

3. Use social stories.

Social stories describe social situations and teach students how to respond. It also provides guidelines of what is acceptable in each social situation. This helps to reduce anxiety and the student knows what is appropriate in that setting. It can help to have social stories for several different social settings. For example, birthday party, sporting event, or in the library.

4. Participate in role playing.

Role playing allows you to demonstrate the different emotions with your students. You may also encourage your students to role play with each other. Provide them with different scenarios and model the appropriate social response. By practicing facial expressions in a structured environment, it will help students become more comfortable expressing themselves.

5. Practice comprehension skills.

After students have practiced their social skills, then assess their comprehension. Encourage your students to practice identifying and understanding their emotions by answering comprehension questions. Have them match their emotions with the questions.

Social Skills are necessary for daily interactions, maintaining healthy relationships, and interacting with others.

These helpful resources include pictures for identifying emotions, if/then statements, and comprehension questions:

These activities packets are designed to help these students by learning about twelve characters and reading about how they feel. The students will define each feeling, learn facial cues, answer comprehension questions, and give their own examples. 

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