Autism & Emotions

See also:    Cognitive Psychology    Social Skills Development   

Internet Resources

Argues for the value of resilience as a key concept in work with young people in need and considers some of the implications of a resilience led approach for policy and practice. Resilience refers to a capacity to do well despite adverse experience.
Robbie Gilligan
C. Kasari
Recognising and expressing affect is a vital part of social participation. Unfortunately, those with autism have a learning disability in this area, often accompanied by deficits in language, motor and perceptual development. Their development of social communication is very low compared to neurologically typical children who learn social cues naturally while growing up. In trying to comprehend social nuances in communication or social behaviour to blend in during everyday interaction, autistic children get frustrated, not only with themselves but with their teachers too, and often give up learning. What may help an autistic child in this case is an ever-patient teacher. This research presents an approach to creating that teacher: a persistent and unresentful aid that progressively introduces basic emotional expressions, guides recognition development through matching, and records the child's success. It is designed to teach emotion recognition to autistic children with a heterogeneous disorder. Although the application developed for this research does not come close to the abilities of a highly trained human practitioner, it is designed to offload some of the more tedious parts of the work.
Katharine Howard Blocher
Affective Tigger is a toy that responds to the playmate in a natural, emotive manner; recognizes and reacts to the emotion the child is exhibiting; provides the child with a safe play space to explore and experiment with feelings and behavior.
Dana Kirsch
Our goal is not to repress or destroy angry feelings in children or in ourselves but rather to accept the feelings and to help channel and direct them to constructive ends.
Difference is always uncomfortable. We all like to be amongst that which is familiar, predictable and comfy. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if you took words and people literally? You would so often feel let down, disappointed, lied to and so on.
Wendy Lawson
Background. We measured psychopathic traits in boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) selected for difficult and aggressive behaviour. We asked (i) whether psychopathic tendencies can be measured in ASD independent of the severity of autistic behaviour; (ii) whether individuals with ASD with callous-unemotional (CU) traits differ in their cognitive profile from those without such traits; and (iii) how the cognitive data from this study compare with previous data of youngsters with psychopathic tendencies.Method. Twenty-eight ASD boys were rated on psychopathic tendencies, autistic traits and a range of cognitive measures assessing mentalizing ability, executive functions, emotion recognition and ability to make moral-conventional distinction.Results. Our results indicate that psychopathic tendencies are not related to severity of ASD. In addition, such tendencies do not seem to be related to core autistic cognitive deficits, specifically in 'mind-reading' or executive function. Boys with co-occurring ASD and CU tendencies share some behaviours and aspects of cognitive profile with boys who have psychopathic tendencies alone.Conclusions. Callous/psychopathic acts in a small number of individuals with ASD probably reflect a 'double hit' involving an additional impairment of empathic response to distress cues, which is not part and parcel of ASD itself.
J. Rogers et al
As I wrote to my son Tariq, 'I have tried so hard to change you, and in the end it was you who changed me. Instead of becoming the son I wanted you to be you made me become the man I needed to be.'
Robert Naseef
This article provides a review of research on the hemispheric specialization in emotional processing during the past 40 years and the theoretical models derived from the conceptual analysis of these results. The publications reviewed here were collected to better appreciate the cortical lateralization of emotional perception (visual and auditory), expression (facial and prosodic), and experience. Four major models of emotional processing are discussed—the Right Hemisphere, Valence, Approach-Withdrawal, and Behavioral Inhibition System–Behavioral Activation System models. Observing the relative merits and limitations of these models, a new direction for exploration is offered. Specifically, to better appreciate the strength and direction (i.e., approach versus withdrawal) of experienced emotions, it is recommended that state "dominance" be evaluated in the context of asymmetrical activation of left-frontal (dominance) versus right-frontal (submission) brain regions.
Heath A. Demaree et al
A project that has helped a small group of autistic children understand more about human emotions is being launched nationwide. The project uses cartoons narrated by the actor Stephen Fry to help teach the youngsters about facial expressions. The DVD animation series, named The Transporters, capitalises on this fascination with vehicles by grafting real people's faces onto cartoons of vehicles.
British Broadcasting Corporation
Difficult children and adolescents lack some crucial cognitive and emotional skills essential to handling frustration and mastering situations requiring flexibility and adaptability.
Ross Greene
The basis of empathy in the care-giving bond supports the role of ontogeny in the proper development of the 'innate' linkage between individuals. Specifically, continuous contact and coordinated activities are characteristic of a bond that develops a physiologically adaptive response to stress, accurate communication of affect with others and the capacity for empathic responding.
Stephanie D. Preston, Frans B. M. de Waal
In addition to less unvoiced laughter produced by children with autism, results showed that participants with autism exhibited a significant restriction in the type of laugh sounds that they produced relative to both comparison groups.
William John Hudenko
This survey asks a number of questions about demographic information and your personality. This survey also presents 36 photographs of people's eyes and asks you to judge which of four words best describes what the person in each photograph is feeling.
Richard Lippa, Department of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton
The conclusion that an inherent difference within AS style of communication and expression is a difficulty assumes that we should all be the same. People with AS do not desire to be the same believe it or not. The healthy thing for each adult with AS to realize is their own potential to lead a productive, purposeful, and meaningful life that is satisfying to him or her within what individual normal is defined as being.
A.J. Mahari
Again, science has no slam-dunk answer. I posit that there are elusive things in life that simply aren't measurable through fMRI's, namely the complex process of imagination, perception, emotion and self-awareness. While we may see areas of the brain fired up in response to certain stimuli, the complex ingredients of being human can never entirely be distilled. For to distill them is to reduce humanity to component parts.
Estee Klar
Autistics' compassion is based on information gained empirically (empirical data). Therefore it is likely that the autistic may have compassion even where there is no coincidental body language to go with the event.
Stan P.
A Cambridge University team of psychologists have just completed a two-year project working closely with a London multi-media production company, Red Green and Blue Co, to produce the world's first electronic encyclopaedia of emotion.
Simon Baron-Cohen et al
Neuroscience meetings these days have numerous papers on the role of the brain in emotion, affect, hedonic tone, and the like. Unless these vague concepts can be operationalized, they are likely to impede, if not recede, the progress.
Joseph E. LeDoux
Socially competent children presumably ought to be able to recognize affect in others and in themselves more readily and more accurately than less competent children.
Julie Hubbard, John Coie
When I was taught the basic number system (where we count in units, tens, hundred, thousands, etc.), I was wondering what appeal this number ten had to others, to make it a 'basis' of numbers.
Brian Henson
A collection of resources for emotions education: Flashcards and Posters - Listening - Vocabulary and Information - Idioms - Sayings - Interactive exercises - Exercises to print - Interactive games - Songs - Conversation questions - Cartoons - Animations Flash
It is clear that people with AS or any other disorder on the autism spectrum, do not lack emotions. However, the concrete nature of attachments they might have often seems curious to people who do not share their perspective.
Nurit Yirmiya et al
Thinking about autism spectrum conditions as empathy disorders may be a useful framework and may teach us something about the neuro-developmental and genetic basis of empathy.
Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright
We propose a unified theory of empathy, divided into ultimate and proximate levels, grounded in the emotional link between individuals.
Stephanie Preston, Frans de Waal
The concept here is simple, this is a humor-oriented interactive website. You request an emotion (or reasonable facsimile), and I will try and act it out for you. The frame on the left shows the currently filled emotions. The list in the right frame shows requests that are waiting to be filled. Sure, so some of these may not be emotions per se, we're just having fun here. So what are you waiting for?
David Dossetor
Alexithymia is a construct that has attracted considerable research for people without learning disabilities. People with alexithymia have difficulties recognizing and describing emotions and have an externally oriented cognitive style. Alexithymia has been closely associated with a variety of mental health and somatic problems. However, the construct of alexithymia has not been considered in respect to people with learning disabilities. This article identifies parallels between the concept of alexithymia and the emotion recognition difficulties and external cognitive styles that have been identified in people with learning disabilities. The article further identifies that many developmental factors considered important in the aetiology of alexithymia are significantly present in the lives of people with learning disabilities and that the association between alexithymia and mental health identified in other populations may also be important for people with learning disabilities. We conclude that there is a strong argument that alexithymia should be a focus of further research for people with learning disabilities.
Karen Mellor, Dave Dagnan
A common myth about autistics is that we do not feel emotions. That is simply not true! I feel emotions very deeply. Another myth is that we do not value our emotions - that we are some sort of robotic creature who only thinks logically, and, thus, can not be happy or upset. I value my emotions tremendously and enjoy being happy as much, if not more, then any non-autistic!
Joel Smith
When caregivers learn to change their thoughts and feelings about challenging behaviors, both the frequency and the intensity of the incidents are almost immediately diminished.
Steven Wertz
Nurit Yirmiya et al
Offers therapeutic activities for feeling recognition, expression, and management.
California Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities Center
Aggressive impulses are born in the human child and are a crucial aspect of the psychological life-force and of survival. Finding a healthy balance between too much and too little aggressive behavior is probably the most difficult task of growing up.
Sally Provence
Line drawings of faces expressing a host of emotions
Autism is associated with problems in understanding and expressing emotion. We compared the ability of eight high-functioning children with autism (i.e. those with IQ scores >= 70) and eight age- and gender-matched controls with similar oral language development, to understand the facial expression of real and deceptive emotion. Children with autism had limited understanding of socially derived emotion. Although they could relate emotions to standard facial expressions, they were less able than controls to indicate the real emotions story characters feel, the deceptive emotions they express in the face, or the social reasons prompting a deceptive facial expression. For high-function children with autism, facial expressions may function as lexical codes but not as forms of social communication that modify beliefs.
Maureen Dennis et al
Parents can foster the development of good self-esteem by setting challenges that children can handle, praising good results but honestly telling children when they haven't done well, and helping children not generalize from temporary failures.
Colleen Willoughby, Gillian King, Helen Polatajko
The classic picture of an autistic individual includes an impoverished ability to interpret or express emotion. The prosody of spoken language in autistic children is thought to lack emotional content. In this study, the verbal intonation of children with autism was examined and compared to that of children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and normal controls (ctrl). Utterances elicited by repetition and by spontaneous story completion were analyzed by quantifying phonetic features (pitch, amplitude, and length) and comparing them to subjective ratings of produced emotion (happy, sad or angry). Since the most consistent phonetic correlate of these emotional targets has been demonstrated to be pitch range, speakers with autistic spectrum disorders were expected to have decreased pitch range; however in the repetition task, autistic subjects actually had a larger pitch range than the other groups. Other measures of intonation including amplitude, duration, and location of pitch peak revealed defects that are more complex than predicted. In spontaneous speech, autistic subjects performed more poorly on both phonetic targets and subjective ratings than ctrls, and AS subjects fell between autistics and normals.
K. Hubbard et al
Firstly, how does one establish the 'rules' of correct behaviour, and then, secondly, how does one justify each and every one of these 'rules' over time, as societies, cultures, and people, themselves, often change over time?
Brian Henson
Limbic Rage is a seizure-like disorder in the limbic system of the brain that causes unpredictable and often unprovoked rages. It is under-estimated, understudied, undertreated and untreated, unaccepted, misunderstood, and mislabeled.
Virginia Scott
True inclusion into a society starts from recognising and valuing uniqueness, not denying and suppressing it.
Rita Jordan
I shall consider whether children and adults with pervasive developmental disorder can sometimes be rightly described as being malicious; how can this be recognised; and some ideas about management.
Digby Tantam
The grieving processes of people with autism are profoundly affected by their disabilities. Skilled support has been an important factor in enabling individuals to reach a resolution of grief.
Helen Green Allison
People with disabilities have a right to participate fully in the grief and mourning process and in all of society's support systems and rituals associated with these losses.
Sheila Hollins
I've become a loner, partly out of fear, partly out of choice. I'm not lonely - I have friends and relatives I talk to but contact with them is usually on the phone.
Group membership may impact personal evaluations of the self. Recognition of the devaluation that one's group experiences as a whole may contribute to distress independently of personal self-evaluations.
Jennifer Katz
It is Mr. Baron-Cohen's theory about empathy, in particular, that is generating a buzz among researchers and the public alike. His new work, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain (Perseus Publishing, 2003), suggests that the capacity for empathy is the critical cognitive difference between men and women. He goes on to speculate that the empathy gap between genders could provide a key for understanding autism, which afflicts one in every 250 American children -- the vast majority of them boys, including this reporter's 4-year-old son.
David Cohen
Mind Reading is a unique reference work covering the entire spectrum of human emotions. Using the software you can explore over 400 emotions, seeing and hearing each one performed by six different people.
Simon Baron Cohen
The purpose of our organization is to fully integrate self-esteem into the fabric of American society so that every individual, no matter what their age or background, experiences personal worth and happiness.
Empathy can, thus, be re-defined as a form of intersubjectivity which involves living things as 'objects' to which the communicated intersubjective agreement relates. It is wrong to limit empathy to the communication of emotion.
Sam Vaknin
The primary motivation behind almost all of what most people would see as my "normal" behaviour, is fear... This is my relationship to the world, and you cannot change that. You can, however, change my relationship to you, by listening with an open mind, and by accepting my view of the world as equal to yours. If you do this, I may one day be able to let go of my fear when I'm with you.
Nurit Yirmiya et al
Even a success-seeking version of perfectionism, however, can become a problem to the extent that the student begins to focus not so much on meeting personal goals as on winning competitions against classmates.
Lesson plan for emotion education.
Ohio State University Extension
Several neuropsychiatric disorders, especially autism, phobias, and depression, also involve alterations in the ability to perceive, recognize, express, or experience emotions.
Ralph Adolphs
People with a higher mental age do better on emotion recognition tasks than those with a lower mental age. Happiness is the easiest to identify, while anger, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust are more difficult to recognize
Betsey Benson
Nurit Yirmiya et al
Role taking refers to the human ability to mentally decenter from one's own perspective or vantage point and see events from the standpoint of others. It is critical to making society possible and is one of the major inabilities in autistic mentality.
D. Franks
How Not to Feel Stupid When You Know You're Not: Self-Esteem and Learning Disabilities; Breaking the Low S-E Cycle; Stacking the Deck: Four Aces of S-E; Anger and Frustration: Manifestations of Low S-E; No More Pity Parties; Tim's Story; Readings
Nurit Yirmiya et al
As children get older they tend to separate into two groups. For one type of child the teacher can jerk open the front door; and for the other type, the teacher must sneak quietly through the back door.
Temple Grandin
Consider these specific factors and the unique assets and needs of the grieving person: mental age, calendar age, previous life experiences, preferred communication mode.
California Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities Center
In order to Tame Temper Tantrums, you have to find out what triggers the tantrums and do what you can to eliminate or modify those triggers somehow. Sounds simple, right? It is not always so simple.
Janet Lawrence
Taming the tiger depends a lot upon language. Reading non-verbal cues, processing nuances of spoken words, and developing an inner voice. For many children, developing this ability is akin to learning a foreign language.
Stephen Rothenberg
Children should be introduced to the concept of ignoring. Focusing tools are often relaxation techniques which also provide additional sensory input that may help the child to stop distracting, self-stimulating behaviors.
Harriet Arnold
Addresses the difference between a “spoiled brat” temper tantrum and an autism tantrum. Explores reasons why children with autism present similar “temper tantrum” -like behaviors and what we, as adults, can do to cope with these behaviors.
Janet Lawrence
Do you care for a child with autism between the ages of two and eight? The Transporters is a fun new animation series designed to help children with autism discover the world of emotions. Jane Asher, President of the National Autistic Society, said: "This is such a wonderful initiative. It's going to make a huge difference to some very vulnerable children."
Nurit Yirmiya et al
Dr. Corbett describes her work studying applications of video modeling, a behaviorally based treatment using the video medium to teach skills to children with ASD's who have problems perceiving the emotions and social cues of others.
Dr. Corbett describes her work studying applications of video modeling, a behaviorally based treatment using the video medium to teach skills to children with ASD's who have problems perceiving the emotions and social cues of others.
Dealing more effectively with inflexible and explosive behavior requires, first and foremost, a new understanding of what these children are about.
Ross Greene
Tests identified unique physiological patterns in each of 8 different emotions given a seated subject, intentionally feeling and expressing these states. Many emotional differences can be automatically discriminated in patterns of physiological changes.
Jennifer Healey
Somehow it feels as though what we ask for in that inconsolable state is the acknowledgment that, yes, it is unfixable. No, nothing could be worse than this.
Lois Barclay Murphy

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This page was last updated on 5 November 2008, 3:48 pm
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