Emotions are an essential part of development. There is evidence that young children understand and express emotions through facial expressions. Correct identification and recognition of facial expressions is important to facilitate communication and social interaction. Emotions are represented in a wide variety of symbol sets and systems in Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) to enable a person with little or no functional speech to express emotion. These symbols consist of a facial expression with facial features to distinguish between emotions. In spite of the importance of expressing and understanding emotions to facilitate communication, there is limited research on young children’s ability to recognize emotions represented by graphic symbols. The purpose of this study was to investigate the ability of typically developing fouryearold children to recognize basic emotions as represented by graphic symbols. In order to determine their ability to recognize emotions on graphic symbols, their ability to understand emotions had to be determined. Participants were then required to recognize four basic emotions (happy, sad, afraid, angry) represented by various graphic symbols, taken from PCS (Johnson, 1981), PICSYMS (Carlson, 1985) and Makaton (Grove&Walker, 1990). The purpose was to determine which graphic symbol the children recognized as representation of an emotion. Results showed that the emotion of happy was easier to recognize, which might be because it was the only emotion in the pleasure dimension of emotions. Sad, afraid and angry were more difficult to recognize which might be because they fall in the displeasure dimension. It is also evident from the findings that the facial features in the graphic symbol play an important part in conveying a specific emotion. The results that were obtained are discussed in relation to previous findings. Finally, recommendations for future use are made.
Dissertation (MA (Augumentative and Alternative Communication))--University of Pretoria, 2008.