Activities for Special Needs Children: Social and Emotional Skills

Activities for Special Needs Children: Social and Emotional Skills

Social skills needed for peer relationships are not always taught, and children with special needs do not always pick up these skills on their own.  Understanding emotions is important for an individual and for learning how to interact in peer groups.  Focus on some activities for special needs children that focus on social and emotional skills.

Emotions Color Wheel

Print out or create an emotions color wheel, which provides a visual representation of emotions.  Different emotional types, such as “happy” are grouped within a color, and different variations and saturations of that color show ranges of emotions from mild to extreme.  For example, “angry” is a saturated red while “aggravated” is paler in color.  Extreme emotions like despair, enraged, hysterical, or exuberant are found in the center of the wheel.  Choose an “emotion of the day” and discuss a definition of that emotion and situations where that emotion might be experienced; you can even model the emotion through a role-play scenario, which facilitates social and emotional understanding.  To close out the activity, allow each student to draw what the emotion looks like to them, and it can be concrete or abstract.

Emotion Cards

Purchase or make a deck of cards that have pictures of facial expressions and the word of an emotion that fits the expression.  You might also want to have a poster with different emotions and their words.  Do a role-playing guessing game in which a student acts out emotions, and other students must guess what emotions are being represented.  You can also have a child place a marker or circle an emotion on the poster that explains how they are feeling.  If the emotion is one of sadness or anger, you might want to express ways of changing those emotions.  These activities for special needs children help match emotions with social cues like facial expressions.

Stress Triggers

Create a checklist that students can complete about their school stressors.  Use pictures that correspond with emotions, and students can select from five emotions that they feel during a given situation.  These activities for special needs children help students discover social and emotional connections and how certain scenarios might trigger an emotional response.  It also helps make children aware of their triggers, and you can add lessons to help provide appropriate responses to triggers, so students can learn coping strategies.  Have students complete emotions check in and check out worksheets in which they write “I feel…” with an emotion and they write why they feel that way.  After an activity or coping strategy practice, complete the “check out” portion in which the student writes how they feel and why.  The goal of this practice is to see a potential change in emotions, such as going from feelings of frustration to calm.

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Written by: Candice Evans See other articles by Candice Evans
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