Your comment about Aphasia causing difficulties with “express[ing] emotions or self advocat[ing] was very intriguing. Are there any resources to help students who have difficulty with word retrieval to express emotions? I am picturing some sort of online image gallery for students to use if they need help identifying pain at the nurse’s office. Does that exist?”


I’m not sure if everybody with Aphasia has the same issues involving expression of emotions that I do because I think mine were always sourced in anxiety–not every child will feel the same kinds of anxiety and subsequent shame from expression emotions that  I had (and often times still do…).  That said, I did look up some resources for nonverbal expressions of feelings since Aphasia is common in children with executive function deficits like ADHD and ASD.




nonverbal communication teaching ideas

For me, the best takeaways for this link since it was specifically relating to ASD language deficits were some of the fun, practical games and tricks that were suggested.  Much of this would be just as useful for parents and caretakers as for educators–in fact, parents and teachers should work together to see that the children are getting these kinds of fun exercises throughout the day to help build up their brain ‘muscle.’

  • Play Charades – use short sentences or stories that convey emotion, such as “I saw the dog coming toward me and I was afraid.” You can add that you can use sounds and actions to act out the sentence or story but no words are allowed. This helps your child look at the body language and non-verbal cues to gain understanding about what is happening.
  • Watch videos – watch videos your child enjoys but doesn’t know by heart. Stop the video and talk about what the characters are doing and feeling. Discuss how the non-verbal communication helps you know what a person is feeling and guess what they will do next. Use video monitoring – tape some social interactions between your child and other children. Watch the video and talk about different types of non-verbal communication, having your child pay attention to facial expressions, voice inflections and gestures. Discuss how paying attention to what the other person didn’t say can add different meanings to the words.
  • Create a facial expression book – for younger children, you can cut out pictures from magazines, showing different facial expressions and create a book with many different “looks.” For example, you might use “happy” and have several different faces showing how people show they are happy. Matching emotions – cut out pictures of different emotions so that you have 2 pictures for each. Paste each picture on one side of an index card. Place all index cards face down. You and your child take turns turning over two cards and trying to make a match, such as two pictures denoting angry or two pictures showing someone who is scared or happy. If you find a match, you keep the cards, if the cards don’t match, you turn them back over and the next person takes a turn. If you are teaching your child words, you can create one card with the word and your child must find the matching picture.
  • Repeat phrases – use simple phrases, such as “I am on the swings” and use different voice inflections and facial expressions to show how that phrase can mean different things. For example, you might say it in an excited voice or a scared voice. Have your child practice saying statements in different ways. Go people watching – take an afternoon and head to the mall. Pick a spot to sit where you can easily watch the people walking by. Discuss what you think they might be feeling, based on their gestures and facial expressions. Take turns, giving your child lots of opportunities to watch how people act and with one another.”

AAC’s description for the organization: professionals and families who are determined to improve the communication and literacy abilities of people with significant communication difficulties.


The article starts out with an idea that I wish all teachers of all students who have brains would understand, “People with aphasia are often most successful when a number of different strategies are combined.”  In other words: differentiation and variety are key to helping language challenges inasmuch as any other learning disability.

  • AUGMENTED INPUT:  “Augmented input is the term that is used to refer to oral language that is supplemented with pictures, print, gestures, pantomime, and the use of objects in the environment.”  In other words, using a variety of inputs while speaking helps people with Aphasia better comprehend what’s being said to them.  By adding a physical and visual comonent to the input, it helps the brain more easily incorporate the ideas into mind for true understanding and comprehension.  So yes: use your hands and face to express while you’re talking: show them pictures, have them draw pictures…
  • QUALITIATIVE RATING SCALES: Here’s a couple examples but the idea is that one would be putting a numeric value to a concept and that there would be a visual component to again give the brain another level to connect ideas on. He’s a simple youngish-student version I found:
  • Rating-scales
  • This system might be a great way to figure out what the learners understand and comprehend and also helps people have issues expressing ideas and emotions in a way that attached a couple different ideas beyond ‘just’ emotions.
  • COMMUNICATION BOOK:  here’s a link to the site’s ideas about communication books from the site but the idea behind it is that it’ll help individuals connect the words on the tip of their tongues…  COMMUNICATION BOOKS
  • TAGGED YES/NO QUESTION/ANSWER:With this approach, you would pose a yes/no question and then add a tag at the end. For example, “Do you have children, yes, or no?” The key to this strategy is how you implement the tag (“yes or no?”).”
  • WRITTEN CHOICE STRATEGY:The written strategy starts when the communication partner poses a question, and writes it down as he/she is saying it. This works best with topics of interest to the person with aphasia, such as hobbies, family, biographical information, or current events. It helps to slow your rate of speech to match the speed of your writing. Then, say and write some possible responses underneath in list format….The client with aphasia can answer by pointing at their selection. Most clients with aphasia can do this, even if their reading skills are impaired because you are talking as you write…
  • topic-board 
  • here’s a powerpoint about using alphabety cards:  alphabet cards
  • PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER:  much like with any other student’s learning ‘challenge:’ use them all.  Seriously, I hope that what you begin, as a teacher or caretaker, to understand that for everybody thrives with variety and differentiation.  It’s for everybody!

  • The inability to express emotions is known as ALEXITHYMIA:  and is described like this:
    1. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
    2. difficulty describing feelings to other people
    3. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
    4. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style
  • It does appear to have a genetic connection.  Because learning to be social and read emotions and cues are someof those tasks that really develop when one is young this is an important idea:
    • The first language of an infant is nonverbal facial expressions. The parent’s emotional state is important for determining how any child might develop. Neglect or indifference to varying changes in a child’s facial expressions without proper feedback can promote an invalidation of the facial expressions manifested by the child. The parent’s ability to reflect self-awareness to the child is another important factor. If the adult is incapable of recognizing and distinguishing emotional expressions in the child, it can influence the child’s capacity to understand emotional expressions.[4]
      • in other words, kids need parents to emote and express so they can learn how. Children need contact and connection, period.
    • It’s common with folks with ASD, PTSD, TBIs, Personality disorders, and I found this quote super important: “An inability to modulate emotions is a possibility in explaining why some alexithymics are prone to discharge tension arising from unpleasant emotional states through impulsive acts or compulsive behaviors such asbinge eating, substance abuse, perverse sexual behavior, or anorexia nervosa.[66] The failure to regulate emotions cognitively might result in prolonged elevations of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) andneuroendocrine systems which can lead to somatic diseases.[65] Alexithymics also show a limited ability to experience positive emotions leading Krystal (1988) and Sifneos (1987) to describe many of these individuals as anhedonic.[5]
  • Turns out I have a raging case of Alexithymia.  Every day we learn new things, right? ;)
  • here are a few more resources on “emotional intelligence,” EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
  • And one more source for this: from Vanderbilt University: about helping children learn to express and read emotions:  vanderbilt emotions PDF

an article full of links from the University of Michgian about helping children identify emotions/feelings verbally:  

and one more…here’s a chart of “nonverbal” pain signs:



some tips for WORKING MEMORY (for children)

In specific for children with ADHD/ASD and other EFDs:

adhd, efds



some images about working memory:




I hope some of this info is useful, R.

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