Social Skills: Interpreting Tone of Voice

Tone of voice can convey so much to the people you are communicating with. Tone of voice is not referring to what is being said, but is rather how something is being said. Tone conveys the emotion behind the statement. Many people know and talk about how our thoughts can often be “lost in translation” when messages are sent via text message or email. Many of the children I work have difficulty deciphering the emotion behind someone else’s tone of voice or how they are being perceived by others based on their own tone of voice.  Imagine going through life only being able to email or text (and not being able to use the cool little emojis)! This would inevitably lead to frustration, frequent episodes of miscommunication, and difficulty understanding someone else’s perspective; all of which is seen when our clients have difficulty with recognizing and understanding that the way something is said has meaning.

One day, while working with a client I was trying to explain to her that when she spoke to me the way she was, it made me feel bad for asking a clarifying question. It became clear based on her response to my feedback that she was unaware that her tone of voice was expressing the emotion I perceived. This was the birth of the “How Am I Feeling?” game. On another occasion, I had an older client clearly articulate to me that she has observed over time that her dads tone of voice gets louder when he is angry. Interestingly, in our conversation (with mom’s help) we discovered his tone also increases when he is in a hurry. She felt that when he was in a hurry, he was actually angry at her. The subtleties of understanding the emotional messages we convey with our body language can often pose significant challenges for many children, particularly children on the autism spectrum. If this is something that is challenging for your child or a child you work with, give this game a try!

Download the How Am I Feeling Game 

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