Awesome Links for Social Skills: Emotions and Older Students

The longer I have worked with moderately-severely involved students, both those on the spectrum and those with emotional disabilities, the more I realize how important a role that weak social language/pragmatic skills play in their inability to function in a mainstream environment.  

It is hard to find resources for older kids, much less free ones!
While these skills are important for both disabilities, I have observed that the way that they impact my students differs. 

My emotionally disturbed students tend to flare up easily.  They misunderstand idiomatic language and inferences their peers are making, misread body language cues, facial expressions, and gestures, interpreting situations as more negative toward themselves than they may actually be.  

Another situation that occurs is that they are correct in reading the social situation as being negative, but then don’t have the language skills to work out compromises and negotiate solutions peaceably. They often understand the basic emotions but lack the nuances and vocabulary for sophisticated emotions to be able to regulate their emotions using language. 

For example, if you can only think about angry and furious, how do you think/talk it out that what happened is aggravating and not worth getting in more trouble over? Of course, in reality, it is not this simple, but the language for emotions does play a role in the big picture.

Research is starting to show that the majority of students with emotional disorders have social language difficulties that were not able to be identified due to behaviors and noncompliance that masked the problems. Food for thought.

Students on the spectrum may not even realize that non-verbal communication exists. They often have poor eye contact, so they spend less time looking at facial expressions, to begin with. 

Between interpreting the language they understand very literally, and misunderstanding the facial expressions, gestures and body language people use to communicate, it is not surprising that many students would rather live in their comfortable space with their preferred topics. So much of what goes on around them is so confusing!

Despite the impacts of these deficits displaying themselves in different ways in these populations, the materials that I use for building vocabulary for emotions are the same. The differentiation occurs in choosing the materials and vocabulary level based on the cognitive skills/maturity of the students, and then in how the vocabulary is elicited in application activities afterward.

I have found these resources to be so helpful that I have been spending time yearly to make sure that the links are working, and adding any new sites that I've found. So be sure to check back, and let your friends know about this post!

This post features links that could be appropriate for older students (middle/high) depending on their level. For fun stuff for younger kids, check out this post.

Free Resource Links

Check it out:

I found that my older students responded really well to these types of facial expressions and there are so many to choose from, as well as different types of printables.

Check it out:

Mark, the force behind this website, is amazingly prolific in the number of materials he shares for free. (Although donations are gladly accepted.)

Be sure to check out his game website, too!

These resources are great for teaching nuances of emotions, how we can feel combinations of emotions, and that they vary in intensity. Find more free resources on this site!


This website was made for middle school level but is appropriate for many special needs high school students, too.

There are a variety of lesson plans and online activities here.


Comic strips are a great therapy tool for older kids. There are many goals that can be worked on, making them useful for mixed groups, too.

This site is my favorite for creating comics since it is easy to use and has lots of options. Let your students decide on the problem, choose the appropriate character to show the emotion, and use their vocabulary in the speech bubble dialogues.

Other sites you might like are:

6. Teen Social Inferences and Problem Solving Free Unit 

This puts many of the skills our students are lacking to use in real life problem scenarios. This free unit is helpful whether you are in a classroom or running social skills groups, so click now to download it for free! 

If you love it, kind feedback is always appreciated as a thank you!

For links to use with younger students, check out this post.
If I missed any great resources, I’d love it if you would share your faves in the comments!


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