Hits and misses in the autism world

Hits and misses in the autism world

Here are some hits and misses for learning social cues and/or interpreting facial expressions for our autistic kids. Below I will explain hits and misses in the autism world.

A hit: My child had a communication log and a check-off system that matched his at-home earnings chart. One year I added a “bonus” category called “Notice a social cue.”

Why was that a hit?


I had to explain this new category to my child which included explaining what a social cue was. We had a great conversation as a result. I had to explain non-verbal communication and how he needed to focus a bit longer on the faces of other people in order to receive non-verbal communication.

The best thing about this conversation was that I had it more than once. Plus, I had to remind him social cues meant bonus points.


He has to “notice a social cue.” This was more difficult for my son than other topics on his list. He has to go an extra mile to earn these bonus points.

My son’s aide assisted with this.  She helped him understand what he was looking at.

At home, I would “whoop it up” when my son attempted to interpret non-verbal communication. I always try to approach autism-related milestones with a positive approach.

How does it work?

Mostly, it works well when the entire “team” is on the same page.

There have been misses, however.

One time my child was spending a few hours with his respite person.

During this time, she had taken him to his soccer game. On the walk to the car after the game, according to the respite person, my son was “making faces.”

The respite person didn’t understand them and questioned them.

In response, my child didn’t understand what she was asking.

Needless to say, they both got angry at each other and the ride to our home was not pleasant.

Sometimes, it’s just a bad day all around.

To clarify, the respite person admitted that she was not in a good mood in the first place. She apologized and said she “should know better.”

This aide is a professional in the field of working with kids on the spectrum and admitted that she had reacted to my son badly.

She just got angry at him and didn’t want to explore what was really going on with him.

Talking to our child about this type of incident.

Then, the conversation I had with my son about this incident was very satisfying.

I asked him to explain what he thought had happened when he was walking to the car with the respite person.

He said he remembered making faces and he remembered the respite person getting mad at him. He also remembered not really being able to explain to her what had happened.

Expanding on what happened.

Additionally, my son added a few statements that he had never said before. He said, “Mommy, sometimes I just make faces for no reason. I didn’t know I was making faces at her. Sometimes it just happens and I don’t know why it’s happening. I don’t make them for any reason.”

I congratulated my child for being able to so thoroughly express himself, which, in the past, he has not always been able to do.

Now, I understood what had happened.

I told my son that it was a good thing that he was able to tell us these things.

I also explained the “miss,” the facial expressions that he was making were misinterpreted by someone and these things can happen. Faces are a form of non-verbal communication and sometimes people aren’t going to like what you’re telling them with your face. Sometimes people are sensitive to even a look.

To follow up…

I gave my son a small mirror and asked him to practice making faces. Happy, sad, angry, surprised.

If I caught him making a face at home, I would point it out. “See the face you’re making. What do you think that is saying to me?”

This miss turned into an important lesson and some eye-opening conversations. There was value there.

The misses are just as important as the hits. Both are going to continue to happen. Get used to them.

The hits and the misses. Read more about facial expressions/social cues with autistic children here:


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