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Showing emotion
Teacher with a spinning top

Well before they can express themselves in the language spoken by their parents, babies show their emotions using both facial expressions and body language. The same emotionality will be the case for an older child who is an early communicator.

Emotional states of infants

In general terms, typical emotional development proceeds as follows:

Age Emotion
Birth to 6 months Social smile and other sounds and actions that indicate pleasure. First response is to adult smiles and interactions but as the child becomes more aware of the environment, they respond pleasurably to a wider range of contexts.

Laughter (around 3/4 months).
7-12 months Reactions to fear (crying), disgust, anger.
12 months + Embarrassment, pride, shame.
2 years Empathy.

Think about your own babies and young children or other typically developing babies or children you know. What facial expressions or body language do they use to indicate particular emotions?

Emotional context
Teacher calming a boy

When two people communicate they read each other's emotional state.

Children with SLD/PMLD/CLDD may not display conventional signals of their emotional state, so it is important for teachers and caregivers to understand how each child portrays a particular emotion.

Indicating preferences and dislikes

Watch the film clip in which Leanne, a teaching assistant, tries to establish how Alice expresses that she likes or dislikes something.

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Emotional interaction

In this clip, Lesley, a senior teaching assistant, interacts with Jordan, a child with PMLD. Note how Lesley reads Jordan’s emotional state and pitches her interaction accordingly.

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