Can emotion recognition be taught to children with autism spectrum conditions?

S Baron-Cohen, O Golan, Emma Ashwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (SciVal)


Children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have major difficulties in recognizing and responding to emotional and mental states in others' facial expressions. Such difficulties in empathy underlie their social-communication difficulties that form a core of the diagnosis. In this paper we ask whether aspects of empathy can be taught to young children with ASC. We review a study that evaluated The Transporters, an animated series designed to enhance emotion comprehension in children with ASC. Children with ASC (4-7 years old) watched The Transporters every day for four weeks. Participants were tested before and after intervention on emotional vocabulary and emotion recognition at three levels of generalization. The intervention group improved significantly more than a clinical control group on all task levels, performing comparably to typical controls at time 2. The discussion centres on how vehicles as mechanical systems may be one key reason why The Transporters caused the improved understanding and recognition of emotions in children with ASC. The implications for the design of autism-friendly interventions are also explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3567-3574
Number of pages8
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences
Issue number1535
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • emotion recognition
  • autism spectrum
  • children


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