Program: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. This includes emotional self-regulation, problem solving, and modifying your own behavior to impact the emotions of someone else (source: Psychology

My Recognizing & Labeling Emotions post was about teaching individuals with Autism to receptively and expressively identify the basic human emotions.

So what about taking a step beyond just identifying a “happy” facial expression to associating events related to emotions, processing ones own emotions, thinking about how your own actions impacts what others feel, or moving into more complex/multifaceted emotions like  worry, guilt, disgust, jealousy, rage, contentment, suspicion, or courage?

As I said in my previous emotions post, teaching emotions can get pretty complex! If ADULTS struggle to process, label, and appropriately manage their emotional state, how much harder is all of this for children??

This post is about programs I may write for older clients, or clients more on the milder end of the Spectrum, who can struggle mightily in the area of emotional intelligence. 
These individuals are usually very bright and socially aware, which can make other people judge them much more harshly when they have a bad day, a bad moment, or blow up on someone with yelling, cursing, and screaming. 

Just because an individual makes great grades, is conversational, and can easily complete daily living activities, does not mean they possess emotional intelligence. 

Let's look at a few examples:

  1. Therapist gives David a math worksheet to complete. David reaches a difficult problem, and promptly bursts into tears and shouts “I’m so stupid”, before ripping the paper in half.
  2. Therapist is at the park playing a game with Kayla when another child walks up to join their play. Kayla covers her nose with her hands and says “Wow, you smell”. The other child starts crying and walks off.
  3. Christopher is standing in the lunch line at school when a student accidentally bumps into him. The other child says “I’m sorry”. Christopher pushes the child to the floor. When the teacher later asks Christopher why he did that, he says “That kid picked a fight with me”.

Here are some helpful strategies for teaching emotional intelligence, with a resource at the bottom for teaching self-regulation:

(I suggest using large, color photographs and generating discussion about the social scenarios pictured.  Steer the discussion to real-life events or recent blow-ups, and discuss alternatives for future behaviors. This strategy should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to develop complex social skills.)

Ask: What are these children doing? What games do you like to play with your friends?

Ask: Is that boy paying attention in class? How can you tell he isn’t? How do you think that makes the teacher feel?

Ask: How does this boy feel? How do you know that? Tell me about a time you felt sad/lonely. If you saw him what could you say to make him feel better?

Ask: What are they doing? How would you feel if some kids did that to you? Whats a good way to handle that?

Ask: How does the girl in the middle feel? What do you think the other two girls are saying? Tell me about a time you felt left out from the group. How did you handle it?

The Incredible 5 Point Scale by Kari Buron & Mitzi Curtis is an amazing resource that uses a behavioral thermometer system to teach: how to recognize your emotional state, how to determine an appropriate reaction, how to identify triggers, and how to problem solve appropriate solutions to deescalate once you have been triggered. I've used it with clients of varying ages, and abilities (with some slight modifications).


  1. Just wanted to say that I love your blog very much. My child has PWS and autism and I've found much helpful information in here.

    I clicked on the link for your previous post on recognizing and labeling emotions several times but it leads nowhere, fyi. Looking forward to seeing it on here someday! Thanks.


Copyright T. Meadows 2011. All original content on this blog is protected by copyright. Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top