Autism and FACS in Comic Books

By definition, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) indicates social development difficulties. Face Value offers to teach readers a better emotional understanding through facial feature recognition. We apply the Facial Action Coding System as our first step to improve social communication…using comic books.

Dr. Paul Ekman uses the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to help explain how people show different emotions. Seven core universal emotions include: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, contempt, and disgust. Face Value artists draw specific emotions on our characters’ faces.

Michael displays four basic emotions.

EMPATHY STRATEGY #1: Draw characters’ faces consistent with FACS, especially during highly emotional scenes.

EDUCATIONAL HYPOTHESIS: Readers will improve recognition of various micro-expressions that are frozen on the comic book page.

DISCUSSION: Children with ASD typically lack consistent eye contact during interpersonal conversations. Cognitive neuropsychologist Micheal Spezio suggests children with ASD focus their gaze on the face, just as neurotypical children do. However, Spezio et al (2007) discovered how children with ASD scan other facial features longer than the eyes. Therefore, emotional expression occurs across the entire face, and this idea makes FACS more important. A comic book allows readers to take their time to review the page and absorb the emotional content at their pace. This strategy will help children with ASD overcome “mindblindness,” a theory by Simon Baron-Cohen. He suggests people with ASD lack an ability to understand how other people feel.

We emphasizes strong facial features to express emotions. Face Value Comics believes readers will be able to recognize our different characters’ emotions. Developing this baseline, children (especially children with ASD) will be able to better spot emotional expressions by others in real-life, too. Ultimately, readers may feel facial muscular changes within themselves, and begin to identify how they feel using seven basic examples from FACS. In the future, we will explain our other empathy awareness strategies!


Ekman, P. (2011). What is meant by calling emotions basic. Emotion Review, 3(4), 354-370.

Lombardo, M.V. & Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The role of the self in mindblindness in Autism. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(1), 130-140.

Spezio, M.L., Adolphs, R., Hurley, R.S.E, & Piven, J. (2007). Analysis of face gaze in autism using “Bubbles.” Neuropsychologia, 45, 144-151.

© Face Value Comics 2013

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