O on the other hand has always seemed to have an intuitive feeling about other children's emotional states, however she has always struggled to articulate how she was feeling. She struggled, and still does, to recognise her own feelings of anxiousness and nervousness.
Both O and L have come a long way in the last 12 months and it is in part to the skills that L, and in turn us, are learning during the weekly therapy sessions the he attends.
One of L's long term NDIS and therapy goals is to be able to identify his own emotions. During his therapy sessions L is learning how to label his emotions through his therapists reading stories to him and by looking at pictures of faces. He is asked questions such as "how do you think the character is feeling?" or "how do you feel when someone takes a toy off of you?" L started off with being able to identify the basic emotions, sad, happy, angry and so on, and has now graduated to identifying more complex emotions, frustrated, excited and so on.
At home we talk about characters in books that we read and how they might be feeling throughout the course of the story. We also try, where possible, to label our emotions and his in various situations. If L is beginning to become frustrated I'll say "I can see that you are frustrated by ......................." or if L is becoming excited "isn't this exciting." All of these activities assist to consolidate what L is learning at the Early Intervention Centre.
It is mind blowing now to hear him describing how he is feeling or how he thinks others are feeling. The complex describing words that he now uses are music to my ears!
We have numerous story books that we use to explain anxiety. O has found these incredibly useful in managing her anxiety but they are not very practical to be carried with her on a daily basis.
Over the course of last years therapy we were introduced to the concept of social stories. So earlier this year I decided to write a mini social story about feelings that could be personalized by L and O.
I wanted O and L to be able to identify how they felt inside when they were sad and worried. The idea behind the social story is that once we had finished filling in the gaps in the social story, I would laminate the pages and create a mini book that would sit in their school bags. At any stage if either O or L needed help in identifying their feelings, they could pull out the social story and have a read.
When O is in an anxious state she tends to forget some of the coping mechanisms that she has been taught - talking to people that she trusts, doing some deep breathing exercises and so on, so I included some of the coping mechanisms in the social story to jog her memory.
I also figured that by being able to identify their feelings, both O and L could start to take a little ownership over how they reacted to those feelings. Yes they are young, but the sooner we start teaching them that they can choose how they react in different situations, the better equipped they will be for the future.
Learning this skill takes time, I've only recently realised that I cannot change how others act or how they think, what I can do is choose how I react to others actions. Doing this has greatly reduced my own anxiety and I honestly wish that it is something that I'd learnt many many years ago.
Since creating this social story, I've not only used it for O and L but also with numerous other children who are struggling with identifying their emotions. All of the children that I have made the book with, use their books on a regular basis and I am gradually beginning to see a change in how they react in various situations that previously would have ended in a meltdown or other challenging behaviours.
Me being the nice person that I am would like to share this book with you all. So if you would like the All about My Feelings Book simply click here.
Once I had laminated the pages, I bound them together with a small keyring so that the pages could be flipped over easily.
Teaching our little superheroes how to identify their emotions is an ongoing process but it is vital to their emotional wellbeing. I do hope that you too find the All About My Feelings Book useful.