Emotional competence is the foundation for social skills and good mental health. The Westmead Feelings Program is derived from specialist clinical experience of what works, based on theories of emotional intelligence and emotional competence, and has been developed to suit children’s individual learning needs. To date, the largest and most significant study of WFP involved a treatment-versus-control-group study that evaluated the impact of the program on the emotional competence of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this study, 55 school counsellors from government schools in New South Wales, Australia were trained and certified as WFP 1 and WFP 2 facilitators and delivered the program to over 330 children on the autism spectrum (with and without mild intellectual disability) and their families and teachers. Comparing treatment to control groups, there were significant improvements in the emotional competence of children with ASD mild ID following delivery of WFP 1 as reported by teachers. These improvements were maintained six months after treatment and the effect sizes were large (Ratcliffe, Wong, Dossetor & Hayes, 2014).
An evaluation of WFP 1 for children on the autism spectrum with mild intellectual disability was conducted in a special education school in Sydney. This evaluation indicated improvements in children’s ability to report on feelings experienced, rating feeling intensity, using problem solving skills and increased opportunities to have empathy for one another (Wong & Costley, 2016). For example, one teacher reported that since completing WFP 1, she has had conversations with children in her class about starting high school. She reported having this discussion:
I’ve asked, 'Is anyone worried?', and they’ve said, 'Oh, if I get bullied', and we ended up having a big talk about being bullied using a lot of the Westmead Feelings Program language. So even though we weren’t actually doing the formal sessions, we were using the Westmead Feelings Program language to talk about feelings.
In this same study, it was reported that following delivery of WFP 1, recognising emotions in everyday life ‘went from zero knowledge to a large knowledge’. In particular, identifying emotions on the Feelings Strength Bar, the strength of the emotions, and how different emotions are experienced by different people was named as a great benefit of the Westmead Feelings Program 1. For example, one teacher reported:
If I asked everyone in my class, 'Why are you feeling sad?', they would all be able to tell me and say how they feel on the strength bar.
(Wong & Costley, 2016)