Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Emotional Skills

Children with atypical emotional development1 have difficulties when they deal with feelings and emotions. Understanding and sharing feelings and emotions is very hard for these children. Just as with social skills, difficulties with emotional development are usually indicators of serious developmental difficulties.  Children with atypical emotional development do not “grow out” of their difficulties. They may be at risk of injuring themselves or others. Children with special needs in this area require immediate attention and should be referred to the appropriate specialists as early as possible, rather than waiting for children “outgrow” these difficulties.

Some emotional indicators of atypical social behaviours include:

  • A child showing little or no affect since the very early stages

Some indicators that appear in the preschool years and onwards:

  • Showing low or no energy;
  • Changing moods very easily; e.g., from happy to mad or to sad for no apparent reason;
  • Being very difficult to comfort or calm when upset;
  • Being unable to calm him or herself down, or self-soothe;
  • Having difficulties with adapting to different situations, with little or no self-regulation;
  • Avoiding eye contact with caregivers, friends and strangers;
  • Acting scared or panicking when someone moves quickly;
  • Being overly clingy to others at all times;
  • Showing same level of affection to caregivers and strangers;
  • Lying most of the time;
  • Hurting others;
  • Hurting self;
  • Being withdrawn and/or seeming overly shy;
  • Crying or laughing often for no obvious reason;
  • Over eating or under eating on a daily basis;
  • Eating non-food items, like toys or pebbles;
  • Sleeping too much or very little;
  • Difficulties falling asleep.

Some indicators that appear from early school years and onwards:

  • Having intense temper tantrums almost on a daily basis;
  • Engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior, like frequently touching and rubbing private parts (theirs or others);
  • Continuing to wet the bed or having toileting accidents;
  • Having difficulty paying attention and concentrating;
  • Running away from home or school;
  • Being afraid of common objects or of participating in daily activities (e.g. going to the bathroom, using rulers, scissors, etc.).
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