Colorful Minds: Teaching Social Body Language
The spoken word is just one form of communication.
Both humans and animals use a variety of postures and gestures to communicate everything from emotions to instructions.
These are called social cues, and sometimes colorful children have difficulty reading or understanding this type of nonverbal language which can make it difficult for them to develop relationships.
For our purposes, let's call this a a nonverbal language disorder (NVLD).
What Contributes To A NVLD?
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Language and Auditory Processing Disorders
- Developmental Delays
- Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorders
- Limited or Inconsistent Social Contact (ex: a sick child who spent long periods of time in the hospital)
What Is A Colorful Mind?
My colorful background... I'm a dyslexic mom with two learning disabled teens.
One child shares my dyslexia, and the other, has what's called an auditory processing disorder and cerebral palsy.
We found that kids who have learning disorders compensate in amazing ways to learn, love, and lead an exceptional life.
How you can help a child with a NVLD
With time, patience, and a little creativity anyone can help a child learn about body language.
For the best results there are some things you might want to consider when you begin:
The Child's Age
The younger the child, the earlier success you will have in relationship development because they will have had fewer negative experiences and rejections from peers.
Older children and teens might need more time and intervention to help them adjust to social situations. Even though their understanding of the problem and motivation is increased, they still may be reluctant and un-trusting.
The Child's Attention Span
Even though a child might not appear to be paying attention, it's is important to understand that many colorful children are gifted with the ability to multitask.
A child might walk away from an activity and start playing with Legos, but they're probably still listening, so don't give up or force your child to sit still.
Passive learning for colorful kids is often just as effective as paying full attention.
Learning is best achieved when we're doing something we enjoy.
Try to customize the activities to your child.
If he/she likes Thomas Trains more than Pokémon look for ways to incorporate Thomas into the activity.
Before Making Judgements...
Figuring out what a NVLD looks like.
When I first realized my daughter wasn't up to par with peers socially, I began watching her interactions more closely.
She would play, laugh, and, and initiate contact with children , but then things would alwaystake a turn for the worse, and she would get pushed or yelled at by some angry kid.
At first I thought... Gee, that kid's a bully.
Then I realized, my daughter was persistent in pursuing kids who wanted to get away or move on to something else.
As an adult, I could see the pursued child's building frustration, but my daughter couldn't.
Clearly, she was reading the body language of the other kids all wrong, so I started teaching her about body language using the tools I had available.
Emotional Disney Moments
Tips to facilitate learning body language and social cues.
Emotional Movie Magic
Movies and television shows are fantastic mediums to learn about all sorts of things...especially facial expression and body language. Plus, they can be tailored to the child's age level and specific taste. So it's a fun activity.
While watching something at home with your child point out emotions and expressions.
Make comments that match the character's mood and cues like:
A girl throws a book. at the wall.."Humm, that girl seems angry."
A boy hangs his head after telling a lie... "I think that boy is feeling ashamed."
Watching movies has become a family activity that is still useful in our home. Now that the girls are teenagers, our family movie nights help raise difficult topics, like dating and drugs.
My Immortal Sad Moments
Keeping up with progression
As my kids got older, I would ask more specific questions that tied situations to emotion and body language like:
How do you think that girl feels about catching her boyfriend kissing her friend?
Then comes the next scene...
The same girl balls up her fists and marches toward the friend..."Hum...What do you think she's going to do next?"
There are some great movies and silly sitcoms that are full of expressive emotion. Sit back and enjoy them while everyone learns about life through visuals and body language.
Try watching the adjacent videos, Sad Disney, and My Immortal-Sad Moments to see how many expressions you can spot that are beyond sad.
Multi-sensory learning involves more than one of the senses. Sign language is a wonderful tool since it uses sight and movement.
Learning some of the emotional "signs" used by the hearing impaired is very helpful in teaching social cues because the "signs" are often exaggerated facial and physical expressions of an emotion.
Watch the emotional sign language video for some examples.
Also learning other "signs" beyond emotional words helps the child learn to closely observe movement and expression because some of the advanced words also relay a nonverbal message.
So, by using sign language often you're building both observation and social decoding skills, both of which are necessary for social interaction.
Interactive games and programs
Not all games and computer programs are created equal, but some do have value when you take the time to learn them as a family.
These are a few of my favorites and specifics why:
I reluctantly began playing Sims at the coxing of my daughters. Then I realized what a great opportunity it was to learn body language because kids can project emotions into the characters and see them projected back as a visual using body language and nonverbal voice tone cues.
Sims characters don't speak a real language while they interact with each other, but they:
- raise their voice in volume and tone
- show a wide variety of facial expressions
- use advanced body language to show how they feel
- use higher levels of nonverbal language displays, like depression and anxiety
Preteen boys and girls like this site where they get to tool around a virtual world, shop with points earned interacting on the site, watch movies, and chat to friends.
They can also create avatars and change their emotional expression, but it is limited to basics like happy, sad, and serious.
It's always good to visit these types of sites with the kids to:
- watch how they interact with others
- ensure internet safety rules are being used
Avatars For Little Ones
Most free mail sites like Yahoo, allow the creation of mildly animated characters called avatars. This is a fun and free activity for younger kids if you have online access.
- Change the expression
- Change the look, style and background
Creating avatars is easy and the little ones think it’s cool.
A Last Word On Bonding
All of these activities present opportunities for bonding and sharing.
Letting your child know that the family is accepting of their social limitations and is available to help them move forward, only makes your colorful child’s path to adulthood a smoother journey.
More by this Author
Anything on earth with skin, fur or hair will add to the dust collection. Even with the best products and grooming, all dogs will shed allergy carrying dander, but... Shed-Less dogs are a reality. However for the...
What Next? It's a big misconception that losing your virginity means you'll always be sexually active with: - Your last sexual partner - The next person you're in a casual or serious relationship with - All...
Formaldehyde in hair products. What you should now before getting straightening treatments at the salon or at home. The signs, symptoms, and warnings of formaldehyde sensitivity.