Exploring Feeling Unwell (Asthma) with symbol support


click on image for a closer look

This example looks at feeling UNWELL (orange cog) with Asthma in two linked activities.

Exploring Feeling Unwell (Asthma) with symbol support

This example looks at feeling UNWELL (orange cog) with Asthma in two linked activities.

Getting children to understand feeling well and Unwell can be difficult. It appears a simple concept to us, adults, but it requires a level of understanding of body parts and sensations, which very young children don’t yet have.


In this practice example, the child (4) had a history of respiratory infections, though often presented with no visible symptoms until the infection required aggressive, hospital treatment. The parents and hospital staff wanted to encourage the child to begin to recognise his own symptoms so they could all work towards more effective management and treatment of his condition.

The child was already familiar with body parts and some simple emotional language.

The practitioner was familiar with the Emotion Works cogs and concepts and used these to guide the dialogue, but never directly shared the cogs with the child.

The practitioner illustrated some key words to stimulate a dialogue about feeling “unwell”: sick, hurt, looking green, inflamed lungs, hospital logo, a patient.

Following this discussion, the child added his own illustrations and images of him feeling unwell and a drawing of his inhaler, demonstrating his understanding of the emotion AND his own experiences of it.


This more general discussion of “unwell” led to a more focused dialogue about the child’s asthma symptoms and treatment. In the second photograph, the practitioner has recorded the known body sensations (tight chest, cough) associated with asthma and those observed by parents and hospital staff, and the additional emotions (tired, angry) the child had reported or displayed when they felt unwell.

The practitioner has then used information from school, Mum and the Asthma Nurse to list possible regulation strategies (blue cog): tell a grown up, take “puffers”/medication, see a doctor or nurse, in keeping with the child’s Asthma Plan.

The medical nature of this task meant that the discussion was very practitioner led. The vocabulary used and developed was largely medical but using the Emotion Works model and resources enabled the practitioner to bring these terms to the child’s level of understanding. The child engaged with the resources and discussion, and used the relevant vocabulary to demonstrate his understanding of the emotion, body sensations (or symptoms) and regulation strategies.