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Becca Eisenberg
BY Becca Eisenberg

5 Activities Targeting Concepts of Learning Emotional Cues

Children and adults with varying developmental disabilities and/or social cognitive delays may have difficulty interpreting social and emotional cues. This reduced ability to interpret cues can significantly impact peer relationships and conversation with others. When an individual cannot discern whether a person is upset or happy with their response, their reaction may be considered unexpected, as explained in The Idea of Social Thinking by Michelle Garcia Winner.

I recently wrote an article about the correlation between excessive screen time and interpreting social cues. I wanted to expand on this concept and give parents ideas of additional activities that can help target this goal of interpreting social cues more efficiently.

1# Mimi Q

MimiQThis game comes with 33 cards filled with various matching facial expressions and gestures. After shuffling the cards, each player gets three cards and needs to ask their opponent, “Do you have (facial expression)?” The child has to imitate the facial expression within their question in order to receive the card. The person that gets the most sets of three identical cards wins.

Learn more about this game and access speech and language tips.

2# Charades

Charades is a timeless game in which one player acts out a specific gesture and/or facial expression and the other player needs to guess what that person is acting out. The player can act out emotions, specific actions, famous people, etc. Visit for ideas on how to play charades.

#3 Videos with the Sound Turned Off


Videos with the sound turned off: Sit down with your child and turn off the volume of a TV show and/or commercial. This activity can help a child pay attention to the various facial expressions and body language of the specific characters without the added distraction of speech. Talk about how the characters are feeling based on their body language and/or facial expressions. Is the character happy or sad? How do you know? How did that person react?

#4 Feelings/Emotions Flashcards

A tutor is helping a handicap girl learn at school with flash cards.

A tutor is helping a handicap girl learn at school with flash cards.

With emotion flashcards, go beyond, “show me sad”, “show me happy”, etc. With this activity, create specific situations such as “How would you feel during your birthday?” “How would you feel if a friend left you out of a game?” etc…

#5 Apps


Apps such as Social Detective App, Between the Lines App, Conversation Builder, and Social Skills Builder App are excellent.

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Becca Eisenberg

Written on June 6, 2016 by:

Becca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her blog to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience. She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at [email protected]

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