C. Andres, F. Ramos, E. Breso, I. Benedito, E. Soria

Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) face serious problems in the emotional competence area during their development. There are some tests that try to assess the emotional skills of children. However, most of them are presented through ordinary procedures (physical material), and the ones that are digital use to focus on partial aspects of this complex competence (eg. facial expressions). Moreover, many children with ASD of later infancy are able to recognize successfully different facial expressions, but fail when they need to understand the contextual causes of emotions or to understand when a person hides his/her real emotions. In this sense, we promote EMOCIONATEST as a complex tool to evaluate emotional understanding in different school ages.

The aim of this study is to test the effectiveness of a mobile application designed by the research group (named EMOCIONATEST). The tool will allow us to assess emotional competence with typically developing (TD) children, but also with developmental disorders (eg. ASD). Also, it will be able to detect potential problems exacerbated by age.

Methods and Procedures:
Two participants of 12 years old (one TD, and other with ASD) were assessed with the application EMOCIONATEST. This instrument measures the emotional competence in five levels: identification of facial expressions (level 1), composition of facial expressions (Level 2), understanding the causes that generate emotions (level 3), understanding emotions based on beliefs and desires of character’s (level 4), and understanding of appearance/reality (level 5). These levels are based on emotional development milestones and increase in complexity.

After the assessment of both children, it was observed that was more difficult the child diagnosed with ASD had difficulties in 3 out of 5 levels, whereas the child with TD performed correctly in all of them. Specifically, they both have a proper resolution to the age at level 1 (identification of emotions) and Level 3 (based on beliefs, emotions and desires). Specially, the child with ASD demonstrated difficulties on Level 2 (when selecting eyes and eyebrows); Level 3 (confusing emotions with negative valence: sad-angry, sad-sick); and Level 5 (being unable to identify internal and external emotions).

We conclude that the app EMOCIONATEST is presented as a good tool to evaluate emotional competence in children with ASD, and also to detect individual difficulties through emotional development (eg. confusion between negative emotions). The app is being validated in more TD children form 3 to 12 years-old, in order to obtain normative data and to allow professionals to assess difficulties in emotional understanding in children with different developmental disorders.