Autism and Emotions-Movie “Inside Out” helps teach us both

I am so excited about the upcoming movie from Pixar, ‘Inside Out’. The film will be set in the head of a young girl, Riley Anderson, where five emotions—Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness—try to lead the girl through her life. As I sat through this preview I could not help but think about all of the people with autism who have a hard time understanding and expressing emotions. This movie also happens to be set in San Francisco, home to our speech therapy practice and many children with autism.

There are many strategies to teaching emotions to children with autism. One strategy to teach emotions is through Picture Cards. Picture cards portray illustrations of people’s faces expressing different emotions. Children with, or without, autism identify and label emotions based on facial and expressions.

Social stories are widely used to help teach emotions and feelings to children with autism. Social stories are so wonderful and can be personalized using pictures of the child and his family and friends.

At our San Francisco practice, one of our favorite ways to talk about emotions to children with autism is with Kimochis. KimochisTM are small pillows with a feeling (happy, sad, silly, brave…) printed on one side and a corresponding facial expression on the other. Clients can have fun learning how to identify and express feelings, work through conflicts, and build the foundations for social and emotional intelligence.

I can’t help but wonder if any of the folks involved with the movie ‘Inside Out’ know a child with autism. Regardless, I am excited for this movie and I hope it’s one more way to help children with autism make the feelings connection!