Risk Alert Emotional Tone / Affection
Dr. Deborah Fein compares the emotional tone of typically developing children with those of children showing early signs of autism. The emotional tone of many children on the autism spectrum can be characterized by a flat affect or lacking facial expressions and the absence of apparent enjoyment in one's surroundings and activities.
"Babies...one to two years...should be happy. They should be brimming with life...Children who are heading toward being on the autism spectrum often look flat. Their facial expression is flat. They don’t look particularly happy. They don’t look particularly engaged with their environment."
— Deborah Fein PhD
Early Warning Signs related to Risk Alert Emotional Tone / Affection
Dr. Smith discusses how children on the spectrum may reject or become distressed by their parents' attempts to comfort or be affectionate towards them.
One early warning sign of an autism spectrum disorder is the lack of natural, varied facial expressions. Leighdionne, a young girl with ASD, shows almost no change in her expression across settings and activities; rather, her face remains flat and unidimensional, making it difficult for an observer to determine her feelings.
Spontaneous affection is an important part of connecting and relating to others that is often lacking in children with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Kolevzon compares the quantity and quality of spontaneous affection displayed by typically developing children and those with autism.
Therapies related to Risk Alert Emotional Tone / Affection
It can be difficult for children on the spectrum to both express and interpret emotions. Therapy sessions often focus on teaching children on the spectrum facial expressions and descriptive gestures, though even imitating these social cues can prove challenging for them. Commentary by Dr. Christopher Smith
Though Lucas seems more interested in this picture book, he does not look back at his therapist Georgia as many typically developing children might. He does not seem to be interested in her reactions to the book or in sharing his enjoyment. Further, Lucas shows great difficulty in imitating and understanding the emotions Georgia demonstrates for him. He repeats "I'm angry." and smiles.
Lynda and David, parents of Wynston, had to adjust their expectations of his behavior and are careful not to second guess components of interactions with their son that may seem typical. They focus instead on their connection with their son and find tremendous satisfaction in watching him engage with his environment and the people in his life.
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