Movies Used to Teach Teens with Autism Emotional Intelligence

While many teens watch movies mindlessly, they are unconsciously picking up on social cues and learning how to relate to characters. Many teens find that lessons characters learn on the big screen can translate to their own lives. Using movie time to teach social thinking is not necessarily a new concept. Teachers are beginning to integrate a variety of media in the classroom to keep students engaged and to make the material seem more relevant. Research has shown that movies can be particularly useful in teaching teens with autism emotional intelligence. 

Effective Form of Visual Learning

Many teens with autism are visual learners. Seeing information helps them process and retain information more than hearing information. For example, they often benefit from writing down schedules or to-do lists to help them stay organized. For some teens, they may find it easier to communicate intense emotions through art rather than conversation. Visual supports are a great way to help teens with autism remember information and to keep them engaged. 

Encourages New Connections

Using movies to teach emotional intelligence can help teens with autism draw their own conclusions and make connections in their lives, as they have time to silently process what they have watched. Interactive learning through different types of media appeal to teens spend a lot of their free time in front of screens, where a lot of unconscious social learning takes place. Using movies in an educational context encourages teens to pause and reflect on the information they’ve learned. 

Makes Learning Fun

One of the advantages of teaching social and emotional skills through technology is that teens enjoy both the information and the context. Pixar’s new movie Inside Out  stands out as an example of ways to teach teens emotional intelligence, as it paints a detailed picture of the inner workings of the human mind.  

The movie showed the struggle with emotions that goes on inside all of our heads, and how sometimes even though we know what we feel, we’re unable to share those feelings. Whether it’s Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear or Disgust taking over the controls inside our head, sometimes it’s hard to let others know which emotion is running the show. 

Using characters to represent different emotions breaks down the bigger picture and makes the information easier to understand. This movie also shows teens that everyone experiences a wide range of emotions that can vary in intensity and normalizes the overwhelming emotions that they feel. 

Ways Movies Can Build Emotional Intelligence


  • Improve teen’s ability to identify feelings, thoughts, and motives of characters
  • Helps teens practice taking other people’s perspectives
  • Expands emotional vocabulary
  • Shows examples of conflict resolution that they can apply to their own lives
  • Increases their ability to reflect empathic understanding



New Focus Academy Can Help

New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with executive functioning and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. The program utilizes positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence. The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction, organization, and improve their self-management skills. We offer individualized classroom instruction in a small and nurturing environment that gives students the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to excel in and out of the classroom.

For more information about helping teens build emotional intelligence, call (844) 313-6749 . We can help your family today!