Mobile features that help ASD kids teach social skills- Part 1

The one gadget that has become an inseparable part of our lives is the cell phone. We use our mobiles for practically everything – right from setting our alarms to sending out messages to checking mails and whatsapp. In this 3-part series, we explore features that could turn  this handy gadget into a fun social skills tutor! 

It’s time we made this handy gadget do double-duty as a social skills tutor! In part 1 of this series, let’s explore a feature we use almost constantly to convey feelings. I’m talking about emoticons or emojis, of course!


Use the emoticons on your phone to link facial expressions to emotions. Begin with the basic ones like happy, angry and sleepy. Once the child starts identifying the emotions correctly, you could (after a lot of praise of course) take this to the next level. 

Here are a few ways in which you could do this. 

1. Start imitating the expressions of the emoticons and invite your child to do the same. This could lead to a lot of laughter and enjoyment, while your child gets familiar with facial expressions on real people’s faces. Rope in a sibling or other people at home for a fun family session. 
2. Ask a question related to the emotion. For example, after your child has learnt to identify a shy face without hesitation, you could ask “What makes you feel shy?” If there is no response, encourage it by modelling an answer yourself. “I feel very shy when I am in my nightie and we have a visitor”. Exaggerate your embarrassment or do whatever it takes to make the conversation fun. 
3. Once your child has mastered facial expressions, you could try out hand gesture emoticons like thumbs up, forefinger to thumb circle (which says great or ok), the wave (to say hello), etc.  

Some things to remember

• Go easy! Identifying facial expressions is like learning a new language for your child, so take baby steps, spend the first few weeks with just basic emotions, and most importantly,  and stop as soon as your child seems overwhelmed. 
• Keep the fun quotient high. Maybe you could take selfies of yourselves or think of other ways in which the lesson is safely hidden under a barrel of fun. 

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