Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.
This difficulty in taking another person’s point of into consideration also manifests itself in the reading comprehension difficulties many children on the spectrum experience. Studies have demonstrated a paradoxical combination of good word identification with poor comprehension in these children. Understanding stories requires children to think along with the character and predict what the character will feel and do based on his situation. In other words, making sense of books requires a well-developed theory of mind.
Despite the abundance of research that clearly shows that theory of mind (ToM) ─the ability to “tune in” to the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others ─ is one ofthe core deficits in individuals with ASD “experience suggests that theory of mind is rarely considered in decision making processes surrounding the healthand education of individuals with ASD (e.g.,when developing goals for therapy, drafting individual education plans, or selecting measurable outcomes (Hutchins & Prelock, 2008). To meet this need, I developed TalkAbility a parent program designed to teach parents how they can promote theory-of-mind development in their young children aged 3-7 years. Like all Hanen programs, TalkAbilityTM is based on principles that are consistent with best practice recommendations: involving parents as early as possible in their child's intervention program and facilitating communication in naturalistic contexts. And, like all Hanen Programs, TalkAbility’s content draws from the most up-to-date research on what helps these children develop their social skills, especially in the area of empathy and perspective-taking.
This presentation will focus on how parents in the Hanen Centre’s TalkAbility Program learn to use book reading to facilitate the development of a theory of mind and in so doing help children’s understanding of the book. The attendees will hear about the wide body of research which shows there are two major factors influencing the development of a theory-of-mind or “tuning-in” skills, as they are called in the TalkAbility Program.. The first factor is parental input. Parents who talk about the desires and beliefs of others (i.e., use mental state utterances) encourage their children to think in this way. The second factor is related to the child’s expressive language – i.e. the acquisition of the necessary grammatical structures for talking about the mind drives children’s ability to think about the mind (de Villiers , J., 2000). To put it simply, children who have grammatical structures such as “he thinks that…”, “he knows that” or “he remembers” have the tools to talk about what’s going on in the minds of others). Although people sometimes think that language maps onto non-linguistic concepts (such as the thoughts and feelings of others), research shows that children with autism often need language to develop those concepts (De Villiers, J., 2000).
While the presentation will focus on children on the autism spectrum aged 3 -7 years of age, the information will be applicable to all individuals on the spectrum. The presentation will include:
De Villiers, J. (2000). Language and theory of mind: What are the developmental relationships? In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg & D.J. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding Other Minds: Perspectives from Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (pp. 83–123). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Hutchins, T. & Prelock, P. (2008). Supporting Theory of Mind Development: Considerations and Recommendations for Professionals Providing Services to Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder; Topics in Language Disorders Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 340–364.
Content Area: Social Skills
Fern Sussman, B.A., DSPA
Director of Hanen Parent Programs for Families with Children with ASD
The Hanen Centre