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.

Choosing Favorites

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...

Watch what's really going on during kids play.
Watch what's really going on during kids play.

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.

Emotional Signs

Sign Language

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.

Sims Teenagers

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

Gaia Self Created Avatars
Gaia Self Created Avatars

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

Yahoo Mail Box Avatars
Yahoo Mail Box Avatars

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.

Kids can:

  • 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

Comments 12 comments

Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 8 years ago

GREAT Hub Sangay Glass!! Full of love and humor and insight and the Hurculean effort it takes to raise children with special needs!! As well as the delight in daily break-throughs!! Keep writing when you can!! Keep sharing!! You are a jewel and a delight to the HubPage community!! Your children are lucky to have you!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

Sangay Glass profile image

Sangay Glass 8 years ago Author

That is so kind. Thank You!

Soon to come... Colorful Minds: Developing Empathy

Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 8 years ago

Ahhhhhhhh, that is lovely Sangay Glass . . . I will look forward to reading your wonderful and insightful words . . . Blessings, Earth Angel!!

nikkiu profile image

nikkiu 8 years ago from Coventry

This made interesting reading. Thank you for the information.

sam 7 years ago

I've recently had some major emotional issues. I'm facing depression and anxiety, I'm sure there's a personality disorder in there too. I've become unable to hold any kind of conversation with success, even with family and close friends. I quit my job because going there caused me so much anxiety that I could not fulfill my waitressing duties.

Thank you so much for putting this out there. It surely has helped me realize things I was missing for social interaction and will hopefully help me overcome anxiety about talking with people.

aefrancisco profile image

aefrancisco 6 years ago from somewhere down the road

Very educational - :)

afro's mistake profile image

afro's mistake 6 years ago from dorothys kansas

interesting and very enlightening. im glad i have read this

Sarah 6 years ago

I really appreciate you taking the time to document what has worked for you and your family! We recently learned that my dd is highly gifted with dyslexia and dysgraphia. And even though the social issues haven't been diagnosed officially, they are there. And I am so grateful for your free advice in an area that is very expensive to seek professional help! I hope to return the favor and help others as I learn more, too.

You are an angel!

Thank you,


agaglia profile image

agaglia 5 years ago

Hi, I am interested in using this hub for a parenting discussion. Is that OK with you?

Sangay Glass profile image

Sangay Glass 5 years ago Author


HELLOsammie profile image

HELLOsammie 5 years ago from Watertown, SD

It's a wonderful thing to read. But I think you lack information about Gaia. Gaia is not full of preteens. It's 13+ and the age groups can vary. Some people on the site are 30 or 40 years old.

Sangay Glass profile image

Sangay Glass 5 years ago Author

Like most social network sites, Gaia is used by many age groups. Gaia is not full of preteens, but they love it.

I do stress that parents visit all sites with preteen children since on all public websites there are adults with and without malicious intent. It's also important for parents to involve themselves in early online activities to make sure their children understand and use internet safety as well as avoid bullying in forums.

According to Gaia stats 39.9% are 11-15 and 44.1 16-20. When my daughters were Gaia preteens they had tight groups of "known" friends. Now... my younger one has no interest in the site, while the older one still enjoys Gaia over facebook. It's a matter of personal taste:)

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