This evening in social skills groups we used jack o'lantern carving as a way to focus on the elements of facial expression. The trick when teaching the reading of facial expression is that while each person expresses happiness, gratitude, anger, and frustration uniquely, there is an almost ineffable element of commonality just below the surface which can be difficult to identify.
I have found jack o'lanterns to be useful teaching tools for children with Autism for two reasons. First, because they are topical and relate to what the children are thinking about. reliability and relevance are without a doubt the most important teaching tools. Second, because by breaking the elements of emotional expression down into shapes easy enough to carve into a pumpkin, you get at the universality of human facial expressions.
Aaron Weintraub, MS runs strength based social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon, Manchester and Coventry Connecticut.