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How to Teach Social Cues

It can be tough to read how someone's feeling, unless you know what to look for. Use this guide to teach others how to successfully read others in social situations.


  • Step 1: Look through pictures Look through pictures, from magazines or family photos, and have the child identify the emotion they perceive -- practice makes perfect.
  • TIP: Search online for interactive facial expression games.
  • Step 2: Role-play responses Role-play appropriate behavioral responses. Guide and challenge, helping children to figure things out for themselves rather than spoon-feeding them answers.
  • Step 3: Teach through experiments Teach short, real-world experiments in which the child uses manners with a stranger by holding a door, greeting someone, or thanking someone for service. Have them report back to you, describing the body language or verbal cues they perceived.
  • TIP: Avoid dwelling on the child's inability to read cues or act correctly. Keep it positive and simple to understand.
  • Step 4: Ask for information Remind them that it's acceptable to ask if they can't read someone. Rather than misinterpret, feel bad, or react defensively, they should find out if they have failed to interact, help, or respond properly, and correct their behavior.
  • Step 5: Withdraw when confused Counsel them to get away from any threatening person or situation and decide later if they misread something. Help them sort it out in the safety of the home and discuss new ways to deal with the confusion. It's better safe than sorry.
  • Step 6: Use interactive games Encourage and join them in using interactive games and animated avatars to manipulate facial expressions, modulate volume, or experiment with body language as a healthy learning exercise. Talk with them and teach them while they play.
  • FACT: A 2008 study suggested that wolves are better than dogs and human babies at responding to human social cues.

You Will Need

  • Pictures
  • Role-playing exercises
  • Experiments
  • Caution
  • Interactive games
  • Reinforcement

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