Handling Feelings: Activities for Teaching Emotions to Special Needs Children

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As natural as the connection we have with our emotional selves, some children with special needs do not easily notice emotions and feelings. These disconnections with their emotions, although they truly do feel and express them, cause a rift between their ability to associate with others as well. Children who lack the ability to relate emotionally on their own need teaching. To remediate this issue, a caregiver or teacher can apply activities for teaching emotions that are quick and easily modified.

Emotions Color Wheel

A very basic method of teaching emotions to children with special needs is to introduce them to the emotions color wheel but only after they have adopted the four basic emotions (happy, angry, afraid, and sad).The wheel consists of six basic colors: red, blue, purple, green, orange, and yellow and looks like a 6-slice pie chart. Each slice designates an emotional range by color. Since red is usually signifies danger, risk, or to stop, high temperament emotions go here, and in the green section favorable emotions would fit. You can continue to slice the wheel within each main slice to breakdown emotions further, though at the basic level, six slices will be good enough. Learning emotions is a lesson unit that has to steadily build and branch off over an extended period especially for people who know the barebones about emotions and what they mean.

Make a main wheel to serve as a master copy and example template for when students fill in the chart during class time. The exercise should start with a blank wheel, no color initially. You want students involved in every step of making the wheel so that they are able to attach emotion to feeling intended by color.

Emotional Role-Play

One of the fun activities for teaching emotions in this article involves acting. First, decide which emotions you want to role-play and write them down on cards. Place three of the clues on a board in front of the class or on a table. Guessers have to pick the card that matches the emotions they believe the actor is displaying. You can make this game for points or not but it is always fun to play toward the high score plus, kids get to see emotions in a controlled setting instead of at random occurrences out of context and uncontrollable to the lesson. Always be as animated as you can and use many nonverbal cues with lots of gesturing. It is best to act without speaking so that students really have to pay attention to the emotion to guess correctly.

Students may not initially be ready to act out emotions for play. That is fine; let them continue to play as guesser until they are ready which may be a bit longer for some children. The integration of multiple strategies and lessons speeds up this processing time so practice often with varietal tools.

Emotion of the Day Worksheet

To get students writing about emotions, choose an emotion of the day to begin class. Write it on a card and display it for all the class to see. When students sit down to work, hand them a worksheet with a place for drawing and lines for writing. Draw multiple faces (the number of choices depends on student ability to make choices , ex.: if they are good at making choices add more, if not then only put two on the card) on the paper. Label the top of the card with the attached emotion. On the back of the card write, multiple sentence choices that correlate to the emotion selected. Students will choose the face and the scenario sentence to go with the emotion of the day and transfer them to paper, in addition to the emotion name.

The scenario sentences on the back of the choice card are reusable for a game of emotional role-play.

After a small amount of time of learning emotions, students will start to take more notice of the emotions of the people in their lives. Their integration into society will expand and other areas of development will improve in their lives. Establish a routine that exposes them to feelings to adequately go about teaching kids about different emotions.