Theory of Mind and Autism

photo credit: Olaf_S via photopin cc
When I was first learning about Theory of Mind, I was told a little scenario to help me understand.  It went something like this.

Two children are in a room with an adult.  The adult puts a teddy bear in a red box.  Child 1 leaves the room.  Child 2 watches the adult move the teddy bear from the red box to a green box.  Where will Child 1 think the teddy bear is?

A young child (usually 0-3 yrs old) will say that Child 1 will think that the bear is in the green box because they know that's where it is.  A child who has developed theory of mind will know that Child 1 will still think that the bear is in the red box because Child 1 did not see the adult move the bear.

Children with autism, oftentimes have a very difficult time with Theory of Mind.  This is one of the reasons that participating in pretend play, and talking about emotions and feelings is important for children.  However, developmentally, a child needs to be ready to participate in pretend play...trying to get a child to participate in pretend when they are not at that functional developmental level yet,  will not be beneficial.

Here is an article that I enjoyed about Theory of Mind.

Joy Mano
Utah P.L.A.Y. Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

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