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(A)typical Emotional Development in children with Autism or Deafness



Emotional competence is an important factor in children’s daily functioning, which affects all other aspects in their development. For example, children with a good understanding of other people’s emotions, or who are well skilled in expressing their own emotions, without being offensive, develop better peer-relationships and are more popular within their peer-group. Or children, who suffer from depression or other internalizing disorders, tend to have poor coping skills and worry more, which negatively affects their academic performances.

Children may follow different pathways in their emotional development for numerous reasons. Variation in developmental patterns can occur as a result of cognitive difficulties, neurological problems, physical impairments, and so on, which often result in limited developmental experiences and also affect children’s emotional development. Vice versa, impairments in the emotional domain will influence other aspects of children’s functioning or mental health.

The focus of this module – typical and atypical emotional development – will be approached in two ways. First, this module aims to provide an advanced analysis of the nature of two disorders (Autism and Deafness) with respect to its effect on these children’s emotional functioning (Theory of Mind, emotion awareness, emotion expression, coping). Second, we will also examine how a qualitative different emotional development may contribute to or protect from co-morbidity (e.g. depression, anxiety, aggression) in these two groups. This will provide understanding of these special groups on the one hand, but studying these atypical groups also increases our knowledge about typical emotional development, for example it reveals protective and risk factors.

Course objectives

  • Gaining in-dept theoretical knowledge about emotional development based on current emotion theories

  • gaining more insight into the possible factors that affect process of emotion socialisation and the effect of poor emotional competence on psychopathology

  • critical reading of current research in emotional development concerning children with autism and deaf children

  • and trying to discuss this within a theoretical framework.


(A)typical Emotional Development: Autism, Deafness or Somatism (2010-2011):

Mode of instruction

Seven (7) 2-hour sessions (weekly), each addressing one of the themes, based on recent empirical publications. The first session will concentrate solely on giving a presentation with powerpoint. The remaining 6 sessions will contain student presentations and group discussions regarding a specific theme. Students are expected to prepare each session by reading the listed papers (available via email), students who will give a presentation during a particular session are required to search for additional literature concerning their topic of interest.

Assessment method

Assessment of the module is based on:

  • preparation and presentation (in powerpoint) of a topic for group-discussion, concerning a theme that can be chosen from the 5 themes that will be made available through blackboard (30%)

  • an essay that provides a critical analysis of a research area, related to one of the topics offered in the course (70%).

From January 1, 2006 the Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted the Ephorus system to be used by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. Please see the information concerning fraud .


Information on

Reading list

The compulsory articles will be available on Blackboard. Students will be required to find additional articles to prepare their presentation and to write their essay.


Introduction and enrolment for courses of the first semester will take place on 2 September 2010. Introduction and enrolment for courses of the second semester will take place on 27 January 2011. More information will be available at the website of the Institute of Psychology.

NB: Exam registration will take place via uSis, and will be open between a month and a week before the (re)exam. Students who haven’t registered, cannot participate in the exam.

Contact information

Mw. dr. Carolien Rieffe
Room 3B47A
Tel: +31 (0)71 527 3674