Getting my autistic son to communicate his feelings

I am reaching out for some help and advice for my 10yr old son. 

My son has really good verbal and communication skills, but it’s clear he struggles to discuss his emotions with myself and his mum. 
We have noticed that the other kids at school see him as different and as such end up either excluding him or bullying him. He sometimes gets upset by this, other times shrugs it off as all he wants to do is feel included and part of the peer group (we’ve seen some of this on text between others and sometimes at parties or football where we obviously have a keen eye on what’s going on).

We haven’t discussed his ASD with him yet and nor do his peers understand this, but it hurts to see that he won’t discuss what goes on and we are stuck with what to do worrying that the lother it goes on the harder it will be to get him to talk about those feelings. 

Any advice is welcomed.


  • Hello

    My son struggled to communicate his anxieties and feelings with us or anyone really. I mentioned this in a thread last night so I apologise if anyone else here has already read it. My son attends weekly therapy sessions at an equine centre. His therapist specialises in neurodivergent children. He has never been able to make sense of why he feels “sad” as he puts it but he does communicate quite well now. I don’t pressure him to talk and just ask if he wants to talk about it, very often he will say no and I just remind him that he can come to me anytime he wants. The therapy has been very helpful for him and he is even just starting to talk to the teachers about how he feels now. If he does feel sad and he can be quite desperate sometimes I also find distraction works well, this usually involves us playing Lego, doing crafty stuff, building a den or looking at pictures of a nice holiday or a good day out. We too have not told him about him being autistic yet as he hasn’t had his assessment yet. This is 2 months away. I do plan on telling him before the assessment but with no labels, just as simple as possible and letting him know he thinks differently and he is unique and perfect. 

    Also keep a diary, it really does help to go back and see what works, what doesn’t and any patterns of behaviour.

    1. I wish you the best of luck 
  • It took me years even decades to figure out how I felt in the past. And I did it with help of knowledge and awareness of my condition. Without it it could have been still impossible for me. I heard of some therapies for children with drawings showing level of positive or negative emotions but I don’t remember the name of it. I was frustrated for not being able to recognize and verbalise my emotions and needs, I knew I felt something but couldn’t name it. It led me to more meltdowns. Now it’s much easier. I have a very good memory so I remember the chemistry of particular emotion in particular situation. It’s also important for me in my journey. I saw here on this site is a quidance how and when to disclose the diagnosis to the child and how to talk about emotions. I think help of a therapist will be also needed. Unfortunately I can’t copy the links to the articles 

  • Your son may have trouble understanding his feelings as feelings you could grasp. Tell his the truth of who he is and that he not wrong for not having the same emotional skill set as you. he is unique and interesting and worthy of getting to know on his own terms. I don't know how old he is but tell him, in an age appropriate way that he is autistic.

    Many of us carry our distress in physical illness and sensation. Some of us who were sent into unfathomable situations and expected to conform to norms that we could not satisfy still carry the traces of  trauma that others interpreted as simply 'belly ache', 'Eczema', 'headache', 'isolation', ad nauseam. We tell ourselves, when we are not told the truth in a way we can feel self respect, that ee are somehow 'wrong' and it's terrifying, yet we have no way to express that terror that feels safe as children. 

    Why is he not being given accommodation? If his autism were acknowledged and a school that fit his frame of mind better could be found for him that would go a long way. Expecting him to conform is going to add to his distress.

    I remember adults discussing this in front of me as if I weren't there.

    I am better at describing my feeling now, but I have to first evaluate and sift through thoughts and bodily sensations to see and name it - and all that as the sands of sensation and thought are shifting beneath me.

    Finding an outlet that is not lanuage-centric may help if he is very young. Get help yourselves if you at sea with this. You, also, are not alone.

  • Nice point about rules changing. I used to experience confusion, frustration and an agitation when others did this (I wouldn't be able to tell you these feelings until I was much older as they would be misidentified and misprepresented by others). I didn't quite understand why "all the world is a stage and..." ready set improvise - was fun. It's not fun, but completely and always unpredictable and as a child I tolerated things that if the situation were reversed, a non-autistic would not tolerate. 

    Anyway, I believe too heavy emphasis on 'feeling' is the wrong approach to dealing with matters of safety or justice. One cannot merely be slave to the Passions. It's ok to allow the head to teach the heart. x

  • I'm with Juniper, I often don't know how I feel, but I am quite good at sensing the mood of others. Just now I can tell you where I am in pain, that my tea is in the oven because I know I have to eat, but I don't feel tired, happy, hungry or sad. I simply exist. My feet are no longer cold since I put a blanket over my legs. My neck is stiff.

    If we miss out on picking up the inferences of emotion when everyone else 'gets it' what can we learn about them, and when, from whom?

    I enjoy meeting one friend at a time. But am I happy  when I meet them? I don't know.

    His difference is in processing, so maybe the children are not behaving logically. For example, they play a group game with a set of rules A B C. At some point for some odd reason the rules are A D G, but nobody said the rules changed. This would lead me to frustration (head would physically hurt as it does not make sense to me that A is the only rule being respected and B C are being broken). In my very moral literal word this is like someone lying or being deceptive. So I think it is obvious how I would feel hurt, and want to withdraw from these people.

  • Have a look at Alexithymia. 

    The short answer is many autistics will have difficulty accessing the right word to attach to an internal sense and might not be able to either separate the details and identify a particular emotion, or might have an extremely delayed response. But I'm 50, female and I still cannot tell you my feelings on a thing. What I can tell you at this point is what happened, the ethics and principles around the event and if I was impacted to some degree and a sort of 'diagnosis' of it, including what I believe should happen next. While I definitely know when a sound frequency is painful, I might not have a feeling about a social event (unless there is a physical exchange). 

    Autism is a difference in communication. Internal and external. Many of us might say we experience difficulty accessing vocabulary. Some neurologists will talk about the differences in Left brain vs Right brain and language. The left is where much of our social-linguistics are wired. It's where we might 'think with words' and allows for ease of communication with symbols and representations, for intuiting those around us who use all social nuance of communication. It's programmed to work with our social surroundings. The Right has a vocabulary according to what I understand, and it is where we imagine and create, rather than socialise. It's where one might experience and explore about the nature of things, physics or systems or encounter melodies and so on. From what I've read into it seems autism is more right brain intuitive.

    Language, of course, is not just words, we can communicate through the arts in ways words fail to express. 

    So, when there is a loss in translation, many things will have happened by age 10 if the world around isn't using just words in the literal translation to communicate. I might not have picked up on social cues, but that can also mean an 'innocence is bliss' from not picking up unspoken judgement. As for exclusion - I might sense others don't want to play with me, but I also might enjoy immersing myself into the world around without someone bothering me. There is a quiet joy to a real introvert. Someone who loves going to the movies but doesn't like others talking during it or interrupting their imaginations continued thought on it might really enjoy going alone. Same with shopping. It might be preferred due to having an ability to focus, and so on. 

    I want to add that how we Feel about a thing is based on our perspective and experience in life, which will output an Emotion. I might reason that due to our differences, while everyone does want to 'fit in' if not for the sake of connexion, but also survival, Autistics will have completely different motives due to not catching social nuances which inform the majority how they should be thinking about or perceiving a thing. At some point with maturity and wisdom, connecting to the right few people can outweigh wanting to fit in with the immaturity of a mass collective. 

  • I would suggest speaking to the Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO) at the school and discuss this - it may be a symptom of neurodivergence and they should have a team who can help identify if this is the case.

    If he is autistic then there are probably other areas he can benefit from understanding and getting advice on how to make better for himself.

    It may not be in which case I would say getting a child therapist who specialises in this area should bring results.

    It may be worth getting him familiar with the emotions wheel to get him used to using the core area to identify emotions if he can. There is a good article on this here:

    Good luck.